Rip-roar­ing as Cipri­ani re­turns to fire Wasps

The Rugby Paper - - Aviva Premiership - ■ By NICK CAIN

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.

PIC­TURES: Getty Im­ages

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

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