Bonus point win against Connacht moves Wasps top of Pool

Wasps’ 17th successive home win took them to the top of Pool 2 of the Champions Cup and introduced Kurtley Beale to European Rugby fans in memorable fashion. The Wallaby signing scored the game's first try and was named Man of the Match on his Wasps debut, having just pipped skipper Joe Launchbury to the accolade. 

32 - 17
Wasps Connacht

Sun 11th December 2016
1:00 pm

Ricoh Arena Stadium European Rugby Champions Cup As it happened

The bonus point win means they are now three points ahead of Connacht Rugby, with a difficult trip to Galway ahead next week.

The winning margin was rather harsh on the visitors, who stretched Dai Young’s men all the way. Wasps only led by three points going into the final quarter, but tries from skipper Joe Launchbury and Josh Bassett made the game safe, and also ensured that Connacht went away empty-handed.

The Connacht pack put down an early marker in the first scrum, when they stole Wasps ball. After sending a penalty to the corner they created an overlap on the right, but Josh Bassett pulled off a timely interception a few metres from the line. Wasps then broke away through Nathan Hughes. He had support on both sides, but the defence was tracking back to block the pass. When he managed to move the ball to Dan Robson, the pass was knocked back by Tiernan O'Halloran.

A Wasps penalty to the corner gave them the attacking platform they needed. After a series of phases in which Ashley Johnson, Thomas Young, Dan Robson and Christian Wade all went close, play came back infield and Jimmy Gopperth made a dart for the line. Enough defenders had been sucked in to create the space for Kurtley Beale to take Dan Robson’s pass and power through two tackles for a try, just seven minutes into his Wasps debut. Jimmy Gopperth added the conversion.

After 14 minutes, Connacht pressure earned them a penalty inside the Wasps 22, 16 metres in from the left touchline, but Jack Carty’s kick went wide of the left-hand post. Three minutes later, Kurtley Beale was sent to the sin bin for what was adjudged to be a high-tackle as Niyi Adeolokun slipped. This time Carty was on target from 40 metres. After Christian Wade leapt high to gather the restart, a promising-looking Wasps attack was stopped by another penalty near the right corner.

Three minutes later, Wasps were awarded a penalty on the Connacht 22 a few metres to the right of the posts and Jimmy Gopperth restored the seven-point advantage with 23 minutes gone. A wheeling scrum inside the home 22 appeared to have disrupted Connacht ball, but John Muldoon did well to gather and offload to scrum-half Kieran Marmion, who stole away on the blind side for a well-taken try. Carty’s conversion levelled things at 10-all. Directly from the restart, Marmion found a gap in the Wasps midfield to make 40 metres before a pass out to the right was knocked on, on the 22.

Connacht kept up the pressure, but another knock-on ended a threatening move in the final play before Kurtley Beale returned to the field. Wasps immediately conceded a free-kick for early engagement at the scrum, giving the visitors a scrum of their own 15 metres from the line. They again went through the phases, with a strong charge by Jake Heenan taking them close, before Rob Miller expertly stripped him of the ball, enabling Jimmy Gopperth to clear to safety.

After a penalty set up a Wasps lineout near the right corner, the Connacht defence were again penalised on the 22 and Jimmy Gopperth put Wasps back in front, four minutes before half-time.

A minute later, left-wing Tiernan O’Halloran's knock-on gifted Wasps a scrum on the Connacht 22, five metres in from touch. Wasps won quick possession, but Connacht’s line speed forced a knock-on from Alapati Leiua as he tried to gather Jimmy Gopperth’s short pass. The scrum won the visitors a penalty, which was sent to touch to end the half with Wasps narrowly ahead 13-10.

Connacht posed an early threat in the second half, when Tiernan O’Halloran gathered a long clearance and combined with Cian Kelleher to make ground down the left. Wasps survived that scare and stretched their lead after 43 minutes. Ashley Johnson broke from a maul inside the Connacht 22 to take play to within three metres of the line. Quickly recycled ball found Nathan Hughes, who powered over near the posts. Gopperth’s conversion took the lead to 10 points, but Connacht made an immediate response after Rory Parata intercepted Gopperth’s pass to go in unopposed from the 10 metre line. Carty had the simplest of conversions to reduce the deficit. 

Wasps’ eagerness to run the ball out of defence almost cost them dear, when a pass was spilt in midfield. The loose ball was snapped up and Parata sent a kick towards the corner. Under extreme pressure, Kurtley Beale did well to cover back and make the ball safe. Another Connacht attack was thwarted, when Christian Wade gathered Nepia Fox-Matamua’s chip near the corner before beating several attackers and taking the ball up to the 22. 

With Alapati Leiua off the field for a head injury assessment, Brendan Macken came into the Wasps midfield. The increasingly dominant Connacht scrum immediately won a penalty in the Wasps 22 and the kick set up a lineout in the right corner. They won possession, but the drive was stopped in its tracks. Several phases later, on the opposite side of the field Launchbury won a vital turnover to relieve the pressure.

After Jake Cooper-Woolley took Marty Moore’s place in the Wasps front row. The next scrum was solid, but untidy possession put Dan Robson under pressure and Connacht won a breakdown penalty. They found touch on the 22 and opted to move the ball along the line, but Wasps won another important penalty thanks to further excellent breakdown work by Launchbury. They then turned possession over and Rory Parata’s neat offload sent  Niyi Adeolokun away down the right. He was stopped on the 22, but play went back for a Connacht penalty 35 metres out 15 metres in from touch. Carty’s kick went narrowly wide and Joe Simpson came on for Dan Robson, as the game entered the final quarter.

The replacement scrum-half had an immediate impact, being heavily involved in a patient build-up to a fine try from Joe Launchbury, who went in from 20 metres after the defence had been stretched on the right and play came back infield. Gopperth’s conversion put Wasps 27-17 ahead with 15 minutes left to play.

Kearnan Myall and Thomas Young then made way for James Gaskell and Guy Thompson. With ten minutes left, Christian Wade thought he had secured the try bonus after Jimmy  Gopperth’s long crossfield kick, but the referee who had called a penalty had ruled that insufficient advantage had accrued.

Wasps made up for that disappointment within a minute, after a series of forward charges with Matt Mullan putting in a powerful surge. From the breakdown, quick passes from Gopperth and Beale sent Josh Bassett over in the left corner. Gopperth was unable to convert, but Wasps were now looking comfortable with a 15-point advantage and only seven minutes left on the clock.

Three minutes from time, Wasps turned down a simple kick for the posts to set up a lineout near the right corner. They won possession and moved the ball quickly infield, only to knock on, in the shadow of the posts.

The announcement of Kurtley Beale as Man of the Match was greeted by a huge cheer, as Connacht mounted one last attack in search of a consolation score. It almost came when Fox-Matamua broke the line. He linked with Eoin McKeon, but the final pass to Kieran Marmion went to ground, with the line beckoning. After a couple of attempts to attack from deep, Joe Simpson decided that enough was enough and thumped the ball into the stand to complete a valuable bonus point win. Crucially the visitors went away with nothing, but Wasps know they will face a stiff challenge in Galway next weekend.

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Martin Moore
  4. Joe Launchbury
  5. Kearnan Myall
  6. Ashley Johnson
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Jimmy Gopperth
  11. Josh Bassett
  12. Kurtley Beale
  13. Alapati Leiua
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Rob Miller
  16. Alex Rieder
  17. Tom Bristow
  18. Jake Cooper-Woolley
  19. James Gaskell
  20. Guy Thompson
  21. Joe Simpson
  22. Brendan Macken
  23. Frank Halai

Connacht Line ups

  1. Dennis Buckley
  2. Tom McCartney
  3. Conor Carey
  4. Ultan Dillane
  5. Quinn Roux
  6. Nepia Fox-Matamua
  7. Jake Heenan
  8. John Muldoon
  9. Kieron Marmion
  10. Jack Carty
  11. Cian Kelleher
  12. Bundee Aki
  13. Stacey Ili
  14. Niyi Adeolokun
  15. Tiernan O'Halloran
  16. Dave Heffernan
  17. JP Cooney
  18. Finlay Bealham
  19. Sean O'Brien
  20. Eoin McKeon
  21. Caolin Blade
  22. Rory Parata
  23. Matt Healy