Late penalty keeps Wasps alive
By Ben Sullivan. Last Updated: 30/10/05 5:00pm
Heineken Cup, Causeway Stadium, Sunday October 30, KO 15.00pm
Mark Van Gisbergen slotted a penalty eight minutes into injury time to earn Wasps a 15-15 Heineken Cup draw with Toulouse, as the champions of the last two years could not be separated.
But even with Van Gisbergen's late heroics, Wasps' hopes are hanging by a thread. Following a shock defeat in Edinburgh in their Pool 6 opener, the 2004 champions desperately needed a home victory.
But they failed to break down a superbly-marshalled Toulouse midfield defence, as the French side scored the only two tries of the match. Had Cedric Heymans and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde brought their goalkicking boots across the Channel, the holders would have won comfortably.
Wasps had to settle for five Mark Van Gisbergen penalties and by the closing stages were reduced to increasingly desperate - and fruitless - drop goal attempts from Alex King.
Toulouse showed the greater inventiveness and superior tactical kicking, while far too often Matt Dawson and King kicked good possession straight back to the Frenchmen.
But with Toulouse pressing for the killer score in injury time, the ball broke loose to Paul Sackey and the winger sprinted 80 metres upfield to earn a five metre scrum.
Toulouse were penalised for collapsing it, but with time expired Wasps turned down the chance to take a final scrum and try to win the game and called for the kicking tee. It remains to be seen whether that lack of ambition proves fatal to their quarter-final hopes.
Van Gisbergen put Wasps ahead with an early penalty but on 15 minutes Toulouse took the lead from a tap penalty, Trevor Brennan chipping over the top and Gareth Thomas beating King on the chase to collect and slide over.
A rare break from Van Gisbergen should have brough Wasps a try but Toulouse cynically stopped the ball coming out of a ruck on their own line, the referee only not producing a yellow card because he could not identify the guilty party.
Wasps kicked to the corner but Josh Lewsey lost the ball in the ensuing ruck and the chance was gone.
That failure could have accounted for Wasps' decision to try and win the game with the boot and they did manage to go in at half-time with a 9-7 lead courtesy of two more Van Gisbergen penalties.
The highlights of the second half were a couple of barnstorming forward mauls from Wasps, both of which came to nothing when the ball was lost in the backs, and a marvellous try from Vincent Clerc.
The try came from a lineout move as Frederic Michalak's superb dummy run gave Yannick Jauzion and Florian Fritz the chance to carve open the Wasps defence, before Thomas sent Clerc over close to the corner.
With the conversion again missed by Elissalde, Van Gisbergen quickly levelled the scores at 12-12 before Michalak slotted a brilliant drop-goal under pressure.
King missed a couple of much easier drop-goal chances and Van Gisbergen missed a rare penalty attempt, before Sackey's late break set up the final attack.
Van Gisbergen made no mistake with a high-pressure kick from 30 metres, but with Wasps adrift at the foot of Pool 6, they will almost certainly have to win their remaining four games - including the one in Toulouse - to reach the last eight.