QUIETLY seething, Dai Young stated ‘the next game will show what this group is made of.’
The dust hadn’t yet settled on the crushing home defeat to Gloucester when the Wasps director of rugby switched his focus to this Heineken Champions Cup opener against Leinster.
He got his answer; not enough. Nowhere near. Travelling without the England trio of Dan Robson, Joe Launchbury and Nathan Hughes, perhaps the excuse was ready made.
Mitigation for the defence in the back pocket.
Not that the Wasps director of rugby would ever lean on that for a ‘get out of jail’ card.
Wasps were barely in this contest, they were simply outplayed. Outclassed.
Players making European rugby debuts stepped up against seasoned winners, a team of champions. The cream inevitably rose to the top. With Storm Callum mercifully taking a break, it was the hosts who simply blew the Black and Golds away.
The best club team in the northern hemisphere, arguably the world, had resources at their disposal that the visitors couldn’t match.
An early scrum penalty granted Leinster a shot to probe into the 22 and test the visiting defence. After initial organisation around the fringes Sean Cronin sensed a gap, pinning his ears back and finishing well under pressure from covering defenders.
Lima Sopoaga reduced the deficit to four points with a sweetlystruck penalty, but he would prove to be the villian as his interception attempt with the clock in the red earned himself a yellow card and Sexton punched the ball into the Wasps 22.
With Wasps defenders visibly tired, Luke McGrath showed wonderful attacking instincts from the breakdown to dive over for a try Sexton converted. Reduced to 14 men for the first eight minutes of the second half Wasps needed a solid start but James Lowe wasted little time in building the hosts’ lead. Jonny Sexton once more successful with the boot.
The scoreline threatened to get out of hand when livewire McGrath grabbed a second try as the RDS roared with appreciation with line break after line break.
Heading into the hour-mark, Wasps showed spirit in defence but offered little in attack. Attempts to break down the fringes yielded turnovers after just a few phases. That brief resolve ended when Sexton’s audacious pass freed James Ryan and Lowe was on hand to romp over. Sexton’s conversion took the score to 35-3.
Every positive moment Wasps enjoyed was followed by an error that afforded Leinster the chance to cruise home in the final 15 minutes and empty their bench.
Yet more airtime was afforded The Fratellis’ Chelsea Dagger hit as Jordan Lamour crossed before Robbie Henshaw bundled over in the left corner with five minutes remaining. By the time Jack McGrath added an eighth Leinster score, Wasps were left with the sobering reality they are some distance behind the top two in the Gallagher Premiership, and on this evidence miles away from being a force on the European stage.
Wasps boss Dai Young claimed that next week’s game against Bath is already ‘must win’ following the defeat.
“We have to win next week otherwise we’re under real pressure,” he said. “It’s a huge game for us. We haven’t got anything today but I don’t think many teams will come here and get something.
“Yes of course our defence is a work in progress and it isn’t where we want to be, but unless we can ask some questions with the ball we’re going to end up defending for big periods.
“The teams in this competition are too good for us to think we can give them 70 per cent possession and come away with a result. I have to find a way to get some positivity back into the boys.
“It’s a difficult task now but in the week we have to look at some of the positives and build on them.”
Dejected Wasps walk off after a demoralising defeat in Dublin. Right: The hosts’ Robbie Henshaw cannot be stopped