Wasps hold on against resurgent Tigers

Wasps were 19-0 and three tries to the good after 29 minutes and seemed to be cruising to their eight bonus point of the season. They ended the game relieved to hang on for a narrow victory, after Leicester's storming second-half display turned the game on its head. 

22 - 16
Wasps Leicester Tigers

Sun 8th January 2017
3:00 pm

Ricoh Arena Stadium Aviva Premiership Highlights As it happened

Despite missing out on the bonus point, Wasps went back to the top of the Premiership, three points ahead of Saracens. 

Wasps went ahead after three minutes, following a Kurtley Beale counter-attack down the left. The Leicester defence fielded a kick-ahead inside the 22, but their clearance was gathered and Elliot Daly sent a kick towards the right corner. The bounce of the ball beat Freddie Burns and Tom Brady, and Christian Wade beat everybody to touch down for his ninth try of the season, which Jimmy Gopperth converted.

On six minutes, after the second of two penalties to the right corner, Wasps added a try through Tommy Taylor. After the initial drive was pushed back several metres, the forwards re-grouped and powered their way over in the right corner. This time Gopperth’s conversion attempt from the touchline drifted just wide.

When Tigers began to put some phases together, aggressive tackling by the Wasps defence forced two knock-ons, inside the home 22.

After 18 minutes, Kurtley Beale came into the line following a lineout just inside the Leicester half. He chipped into the path of Josh Bassett, who got a boot to the ball, but sent it over the dead-ball line. Two minutes later Beale broke away down the right, but his inside pass landed just behind Christian Wade. The winger managed to gather and the ball was moved out to the right where there was a huge overlap, but the final pass failed to find Wasps hands. 

Wasps were eventually awarded a penalty which was sent to the corner, but this time the defence held firm. Another thrilling move featuring an incisive burst by Dan Robson, ended with Wade crossing the line in the left corner but he we was unable to ground the ball. It all counted for nothing, as the referee had spotted a forward pass earlier in the move.

With 15 minutes of the half left, the visitors put together a sustained period of pressure deep inside the Wasps 22, but they were again kept out and eventually conceded a penalty a few metres from the line. Within a minute, MOTM Thomas Young broke away down the left. After making 30 metres he fed Josh Bassett, who cut inside before being stopped a few metres short. Dan Robson was on hand to pick up and dart over for Wasps’ third try, which Jimmy Gopperth converted to stretch the lead to 19-0 with 29 minutes gone.

Four minutes later, Owen Williams put Leicester on the board with a 35-metre penalty, after a lengthy advantage which followed a deliberate knock-on. Almost immediately Christian Wade somehow wriggled out of a series of tackles to break into the Leicester 22. He was stopped a few metres short and the ball was recycled quickly, but a knock-on in midfield ended a threatening attack. Wasps had two more opportunities before the halftime whistle, but knock-ons meant that they failed to turn them into points.

Three minutes into the second half, a Leicester driving maul made 15 metres and eventually yielded a penalty 35 metres out. Owen Williams landed the kick to cut the Wasps lead to 19-6.

Wasps had their first attacking opportunity of the half when Jimmy Gopperth’s long penalty to the right corner set up a lineout, but the drive was forced infield and a penalty was conceded.

After ten minutes of largely scrappy play, a Leicester scrum on the 22 gave Tom Brady the chance to come off the left wing and chip over the defence. He gathered his own kick and evaded one tackle, before being stopped just short. The pack arrived en masse and forced their way over with Peter Betham credited with the try, which was confirmed by the TMO. With Owen Williams having been replaced by George Worth, Freddie Burns converted to narrow the gap to just six points at 19-13.

The momentum was now firmly with the visitors and another period of pressure ended with Matt Smith going over in the corner, but his left leg was in touch when he grounded the ball thanks to Kurtley Beale's cover tackle. Before the lineout, Tommy Taylor left the field for a head injury assessment and Ashley Johnson took his place. His first throw found Kearnan Myall and Dan Robson cleared to outside the 22. A triple replacement then saw Kyle Eastmond, Marty Moore and Nathan Hughes making way for Danny Cipriani, Phil Swainston and James Haskell. 

Haskell’s long-awaited first appearance of the season was short-lived, as he immediately put in a characteristically powerful tackle which left him spreadeagled. After several minutes of treatment he left the field with James Gaskell taking his place. A scrum penalty in front of the posts gave Leicester another three points from the boot of Freddie Burns as the game entered the final quarter, after twenty minutes of complete Leicester dominance.

Another Wasps substitution brought Joe Simpson on for Dan Robson, with Matt Mullan then being replaced by Simon McIntyre, making his return after three months out with an ankle injury. 

Wasps finally rediscovered their attacking edge and a threatening move was ended by Dan Cole’s deliberate knock-on inside the Leicester 22. He was shown a yellow card and Jimmy Gopperth took the three points on offer to make the score 22-16 with 13 minutes left.

Wasps created a half-chance when Thomas Young stole around the blind side, to send Joe Simpson away down the right. He chipped ahead, but Tom Brady was in position to field his kick and call a mark a few metres from the line.

An attack down the left and a Cipriani chip almost produced a try for Josh Bassett, but the defence beat him to the ball by a fingertip. Wasps were awarded the put-in to the scrum which went down to win them a penalty. They went for the corner and the drive took them over the line, but the ball could not be grounded and another scrum ensued. To the frustration of the crowd, Wasps were penalised and the chance to make the game safe had gone.

With three minutes left, Leicester were back to fifteen as Charlie Thacker came on for Dan Cole. With time running out they put together wave after wave of attack, before a knock-on gave Wasps a scrum 15 metres from the line and 35 seconds from time. Before the scrum, Rob Miller came on for Elliot Daly who had taken a knock. Wasps won the scrum, Guy Thompson made a few metres and the forwards produced the ball for Joe Simpson to thump it into touch and end a nail-biting encounter. The final whistle was greeted by a huge roar from the biggest crowd of the season, just under 28,000.

With nine games left and a three-point lead at the top of the Premiership, Wasps will now turn their attention to the Champions Cup and next week’s visit of the most successful side in European history, Toulouse.

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Martin Moore
  4. Matt Symons
  5. Kearnan Myall
  6. Thomas Young
  7. Guy Thompson
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Jimmy Gopperth
  11. Josh Bassett
  12. Kyle Eastmond
  13. Elliot Daly
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Kurtley Beale
  16. Ashley Johnson
  17. Simon McIntyre
  18. Phil Swainston
  19. James Gaskell
  20. James Haskell
  21. Joe Simpson
  22. Danny Cipriani
  23. Rob Miller

Leicester Tigers Line ups

  1. Ellis Genge
  2. Tom Youngs
  3. Dan Cole
  4. Ed Slater
  5. Michael Fitzgerald
  6. Mike Williams
  7. Will Evans
  8. Brendon O'Connor
  9. Ben Youngs
  10. Owen Williams
  11. Tom Brady
  12. Matt Smith
  13. Peter Betham
  14. Adam Thompstone
  15. Freddie Burns
  16. George McGuigan
  17. Greg Bateman
  18. Pat Cilliers
  19. Graham Kitchener
  20. Lachlan McCaffrey
  21. Sam Harrison
  22. George Worth
  23. Charlie Thacker