Champions outfight Tigers
Betsen, Bishay and Hart tries give Wasps a vital win
By Phil Jackson. Last Updated: 16/02/09 10:55am
Betsen: Led from the front
Wasps are up to ninth in the Guinness Premiership table after coming through a bruising encounter with rivals Leicester Tigers 36-29 on Sunday.
It was just the Londoners' fifth win of the season in the league as they notched their fourth win in four against the Tigers since Leicester's 34-24 EDF Energy Cup win in March.
Skipper Serge Betsen, winger Chris Bishay and number eight John Hart scored Wasps tries, while Scott Hamilton, Sam Vesty, Jordan Crane and Johne Murphy crossed the line for the Tigers in what was a physical and engaging clash.
Leicester remain in sixth, as a result, but their two bonus points mean they still hold a 10-point advantage over their London opponents.
It was a frenetic start to the match between these two old rivals at Adams Park but, despite a penalty opportunity for Danny Cipriani just a minute in, Leicester were the first to get points on the board.
New Zealander Hamilton it was, who collected the long pass from his compatriot and captain Aaron Mauger before handing off Mark Robinson to race for the line. Julien Dupuy added the conversion and the Tigers had an early 7-0 lead.
Flanker Ben Woods conceded a penalty straight from the restart though to gift Cipriani a confidence-boosting three points. And with less than 10 minutes on the clock, an overthrown lineout from George Chuter was collected by Robinson. The scrum-half broke through his opposite number's half-tackle before sending captain Betsen over for Wasps' first converted try.
Both sides were showing good attacking intent in what was proving a feisty and entertaining affair, which boiled over when Samoans Daniel Leo and Alex Tuilagi were sin-binned after breaking through an advertising board before exchanging punches.
Dupuy missed the resulting penalty, with both teams reduced to 14 and Wasps extended their advantage after turning the ball over with a high defensive line on halfway. Josh Lewsey delayed his pass beautifully before feeding Cipriani and through Dominic Waldouck, Bishay went in and out for a high quality second converted try on the half hour mark.
Leicester came right back into it though after Tom Voyce sold himself cheaply pushing up from Chuter's lineout to allow Vesty a clean race to the line. Dupuy added the extras and the Tigers trailed 17-14 with five minutes of the half remaining.
Two late penalties from Cipriani took Wasps in 23-14 up at the break though and the Londoners picked up where they left off after the interval. Cipriani's attempted drop-goal was tipped behind prompting a five-metre scrum for the hosts and number eight Hart went over for a third converted try to Wasps.
Dupuy's first successful penalty kick then reduced the deficit to 30-17, but the Tigers were finding themselves on the back foot in terms of possession and territory. And the increasingly influential Cipriani made Wasps' advantage tell with his penalty kick in the 53rd minute.
Leicester fought back strongly though and the Tigers won a succession of penalties, which they chose to run rather than kick for the posts. It was not until Rob Webber's yellow card for not rolling away that number eight Crane was able to finish off a persistent spell of pressure for the Tigers' third try. Dupuy missed the conversion so Wasps led 33-22 with 12 minutes remaining.
Mauger's break almost created another immediate try for Tuilagi, but substitute Joe Simpson's strong tackle prevented a certain try for the Samoan and the hosts were able to clear their lines.
Cipriani landed his fifth penalty kick though to give Wasps a 14-point cushion, but try as they might Wasps just could not secure a try-scoring bonus point.
Instead it was Leicester who scored the game's final try through Murphy, and Dupuy's last-gasp kick ensured a morale-boosting two bonus points for the visitors.