Rip-roaring as Cipriani returns to fire Wasps
THIS WAS the Premiership at its best, with Wasps and Leicester serving up a feast of rugby for the 22,000 strong crowd at the Ricoh, before the home side clinched a four tries to three bonus point win thanks to a Kearnan Myall try two minutes from time.
It moved Wasps into fifth place, one above Leicester, and was also their fifth win in a row over their new Midlands rivals, and although it was nip-andtuck throughout this fast, fierce encounter it was merited because overall they showed the greater attacking enterprise.
At the heart of that enterprise was Danny Cipriani, who was making his first start since a knee injury sustained in September. The two-pronged playmaker system of Cipriani at fly-half and Jimmy Gopperth at inside-centre slipped so smoothly back into gear that Wasps had a fluency and speed that was hard to hold.
It was encapsulated in the build-up to Myall’s match-winner, with Wasps stretching Leicester to break point by forcing them to defend from one touchline to the other with James Gaskell, James Haskell, Ben Harris and Josh Bassett to the fore.
When they swung the ball back the other way again Cipriani sniffed out the fracture in the Tigers defensive line, finding Myall with a short pass that put him one-on-one with Telusa Veainu. It was a mismatch in terms of size and momentum and the Wasps lock strode through the fullback’s tackle to score, Gopperth converting as the home fans raised the roof.
If Wasps finished strongest they were nowhere near as quick out of the blocks as Leicester. Tigers came within a whisker of scoring in the second minute when a clean break by Gareth Owen saw them held up over the line, and then Adam Thompstone bunand dled into the corner-flag.
However, they did not go away empty-handed when a George Ford penalty gave them a 3-0 lead with Wasps ruled offside. When Leicester kept the pressure on they made even bigger inroads, with a drive by Mike Fitzgerald rounded off when Ben Youngs put older brother Tom over on the blindside.
Ford’s conversion made it 10-0, but at the end of the first quarter Wasps woke up. Cipriani was the catalyst, making a half-break which Simon McIntyre improved on when he sent Gaskell galloping deep into the Leicester 22. Robson’s speedy service from the ruck found No.8 Nizaam Carr running hard onto the ball, and Wasps’ latest South African import crashed over, Gopperth converting to trim it to 10-7.
Carr’s athletic carrying, the adventure shown by his countrymen Willie le Roux and Juan de Jongh, saw Wasps finish the half with a flourish.
First Robson made the most of Jake CooperWooley’s drive for the line with a blindside dart that saw him slip under Fitzgerald’s tackle to score, and with Gopperth converting and then Elliot Daly landing a long-range special, Wasps went into the interval leading 17-10.
Ford missed with a penalty early in the secondhalf, but the Leicester response was emphatic, with bullocking charges by Sione Kalamafoni and Logovi’i Mulipola signalling their intent. The beneficiary was Jonah Holmes, the young wing signed over the summer from Yorkshire Carnegie, who marked his debut with a try thanks to quick hands from Will Evans and Valentino Mapapalangi.
Although Ford could not add the extras the stakes had been raised at 17-15 – and Holmes was not done. The ex-Wasp scored his second try in a four minute spell when he intercepted a floated pass by Le Roux, and pushed off Christian Wade as he took off on a 70 metre run for the line, and, with Ford converting, the Tigers were 22-17 ahead.
The Wasps response was instant, with a Gopperth penalty making it 22-20, and then swift down-the-line handling from a Haskell lineout resulting in Daly turning on the afterburners for a spectacular try to make it 25-22 to Wasps.
After a brilliant steal by Robson denied Holmes his hat-trick, Leicester drew level with a Ford penalty – but it was Wasps who found the added extra to clinch it.
No contest: Kearnan Myall breaks the tackle of Telusa Veainu on route to scoring the winning try for Wasps
Blindside: Tom Youngs scores for Tigers