Wasps Rugby: Five Key Moments of the Decade

COVENTRY, ENGLAND - APRIL 9: Wasps players celebrate the victory following a conversion by Jimmy Gopperth during the European Rugby Champions Cup Quarter Final between Wasps and Exeter Chiefs at The Ricoh Arena on Aprll 9, 2016 in Coventry, England. (Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images)

The previous decade had been one of great success for Wasps Rugby back when they were at Adams Park. They won four Premiership titles, two Heineken Cups and a European Challenge Cup in that time but would not quite reach the same heights in the next decade.

2010 to 2019 has offered a number of up and downs throughout the decade for the now Coventry-based side. Here are the top five key moments from the past decade that have had a big impact upon the club.

1. Coming out on top in a tight relegation battle

We start at the beginning of the decade when Wasps faced a fight vs Newcastle Falcons and relegation in the 2011-12 season. If Wasps Rugby hadn’t come out of this they would been in serious financial trouble.

Director of Rugby Dai Young came to the club in 2011 and was given a squad that had lost a number of its key members from the decade before.  It was announced the previous season that young talent Danny Cipriani would be leaving along with James Haskell and Tom Palmer. England international front-row Phil Vickery was forced to retire due to a neck injury.

This required Young to introduce the club’s academy into the senior set up with the likes of Joe Launchbury, Elliot Daly, Billy Vunipola and Christian Wade to become key figures.

The season got off to the best possible start, defeating champions Saracens 20-15 in the opening round and Leicester Tigers the following week 35-29.

However, injuries cost Wasps with a total of 16 players being in the treatment room and a number retiring.

It was then down to the young talent to deliver for Wasps Rugby and it was Christian Wade who was the true star to come from the struggle. The now NFL player scored nine tries to keep his side up with his electric pace and outstanding finishing ability.

It was a round 19 victory against Gloucester that eventually managed to hold off the Falcons and subject them to relegation.

2. The Ricoh switch

In 2014, Wasps made the leap to move from their beloved Adams Park in High Wycombe to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The move to the 32,000 seater stadium was initially criticised as the strong London fanbase had felt they had been ignored and disregarded.

The ‘London’ prefix of the name was dropped as the club returned to their initial ‘Wasps’ title.

Moving to the Ricoh was primarily a financial move as a new fanbase came in and the old remained, providing the club with funds that would be crucial to their growth.

The pinnacle of the new stadium so far came when they faced Tigers in the 2016-17 semi-final. Wasps secured a 21-20 last gasp victory in front of a crowd of 32,019 to progress to the final.

3. Victory over Champions Cup holders Toulon

A true sign of Wasps progress from that 2011-12 was in 2015 when they qualified for the European Champions Cup for the second year running.

The Coventry-based side were put in a group with champions Toulon, Bath and Leinster.

Wasps qualified top of the group after winning four from six games and went on to reach the semi-final.

The finest moments of the campaign came when Wasps beat Toulon 32-6 in front of the Ricoh crowd with the likes of Charles Piutau, Frank Halai and Ruaridh Jackson playing starring roles.

Wasps also won in dramatic style in when they defeated Exeter Chiefs 25-24 in the home quarter-final with a last minute Piutau try and Jimmy Gopperth conversion.

4.Attracting big stars

As previously mentioned, the move to Coventry bought financial benefit to Wasps which allowed them to build.

They continued to improve and rebuild and got back into the elite European competition. This began to attract stars from abroad to Coventry and allow DoR Young to create a force in English Rugby.

Piutau was one of the first high profile signings which led the way for fellow international stars such as Willie Le  Roux and Kurtley Beale to join the following year.

The ‘prodigal son’ Danny Cipriani then returned from his endeavours with Melbourne Rebels and Sale Sharks to lead Wasps towards the top of the Premiership table.

Most recently Wasps have aquired the service of two more All Blacks. First in the form of fly-half Lima Sopoaga and then Malakai Fekitoa who has shown glimpses of what he can offer in last weekend’s victory over Bristol Bears.

5. Premiership final appearance for Wasps Rugby

Wasps last reached a final back in the 2007-08 season when they won the Premiership title. Young’s era had built up to the 2016-17 season and with a number of stars spread across his side.

Wasps finished the league season top of the tree to secure a home semi-final in which they beat Leicester in dramatic circumstances with a last gasp Josh Bassett try.

Wasps faced Exeter in the final at Twickenham and stayed with the previous year’s runners up all the way. Tries from Gopperth and Daly as well as penalties from the Kiwi left the scores level at full-time.

However, Wasps led 20-17 in the 78th minute until Nathan Hughes was penalised for hands in the ruck straight in front of his own posts. Wasps would eventually lose in extra-time as Gareth Steenson slottled the winning penalty for the Chiefs.

It was not Wasps’ day but it showed the journey they had been on to return to where they had belonged in the previous decade after the relegation threats of 2012.

Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images

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