Skrela edges out Wasps
October 10, 2010
Wasps No.8 Andy Powell is halted by Thierry Dusautoir
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Reigning Heineken Cup champions Toulouse secured the narrowest of victories over a dogged Wasps side in their opening game of this season's tournament, scraping home 18-16 at the Stade Municipal thanks to the boot of fly-half David Skrela.
The France international kicked all of his side's points in torrential conditions, with the otherwise superb Dave Walder missing a late effort at the posts to let the champions off the hook. Wasps had earlier scored the only try of the game through winger David Lemi but could not make their superior management of the conditions pay.
Victory for Toulouse was a given for many observers but Wasps ran them close for 80 minutes despite comprehensively losing the battle at both the scrum and lineout. Walder's vision and kicking from hand was exemplary but not enough to ensure this season's biggest upset to date.
Wasps came within inches of scoring the opening try after only a minute as Ben Jacobs raced Byron Kelleher for a hack through. The ball beat both into touch but the visitors had to wait only a couple of minutes for their first points, which went to Walder after Gregory Lamboley strayed offside.
Skrela responded with three points of his own on 10 minutes but Wasps continued to scrap for possession, winning a second penalty for Walder after Florian Fritz lost his footing while wrestling for the ball with Dom Waldouck.
Wasps competed well across the field in the opening minutes but their scrum was placed under extreme pressure at every opportunity, with Skrela levelling the scores with the aid of the cross-bar following a particularly damaging defeat for the visiting eight.
Toulouse found space for the first time off the back of another solid scrum, winger Cedric Heymans providing the midfield incision before Fritz went to within inches thanks to the slippery surface. The home side quickly recycled the ball but butchered a certain try as Clement Poitrenaud knocked on having picked the perfect line through the Wasps defence.
Skrela struck the post with another penalty attempt but waited only a matter of moments to grab his side the lead when presented with another shot at the posts. Wasps refused to go away however and Walder showed admirable calm to slot a drop-goal following a rare incursion into the Toulouse 22 - leaving the scores level after 40 minutes.
Wasps secured their best attacking platform of the game soon after the restart, with Tom Varndell and Richard Haughton setting off from deep to force Poitrenaud into conceding a five-metre scrum. The back-three's good work was undone by their pack, who in their eagerness to get the hit on Toulouse went too early for the liking of referee George Clancy.
Skrela opened up daylight for the first time with two further penalties, the second from the halfway line, but Toulouse were often forced to kick possession away from their 22 as Walder continued to pepper their back-three. Fittingly, it was a kick from the diminutive Wasps fly-half that opened the hosts up for the first try of the game, and it was Poitrenaud again who was left to rue a costly error - six years on from gifting Wasps the Heineken Cup at Twickenham.
The fullback let the ball bounce and was beaten to it by replacement Lemi, who scampered after the loose pill and just got it down under the posts. Clancy let play continue for an eternity before bringing it back for the TMO to confirm, which he duly did before Walder landed the extras.
Toulouse were frantic and hurried in the moments following Wasps' try but went back to basics to earn a shot at the poles for their fly-half. Their scrum did a number on the Wasps' pack 40 metres out and Skrela made no mistake to pinch an 18-16 lead with seven minutes remaining.
Toulouse saw a chance to extend their lead disappear when Byron Kelleher took a quick tap following another scrum penalty and the home side almost paid dearly for his hot-headedness. Cencus Johnston was penalised for not rolling away but Walder pushed his effort wide with moments remaining to leave Toulouse mightily relieved.
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