Tigers triumph as Wasps fall again
February 19, 2011
Tigers triumph as Wasps fall again%]
Leicester went 10 points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership as a 16-point haul from former Wasp Jeremy Staunton saw them beat their fierce rivals 21-12 win at Welford Road.
Tries from Staunton, who also kicked three penalties and converted his score, and lock Steve Mafi were enough to give the hosts the win, Dave Walder responding with four penalties for a Wasps side playing their first game since the departure of rugby director Tony Hanks.
The Tigers may not have been at their best but their forward power, personified by telling contributions from No.8 Thomas Waldrom and lock George Skivington, proved too much to handle as they claimed an eighth straight league win. There was also good news for England boss Martin Johnson as Tom Croft played the last 23 minutes on his return from three months out with a shoulder injury.
Wasps, who lost Joe Worsley to injury in the first half, have won just one of their last seven games but can take heart from a tremendous defensive effort in the second half as they held out wave after wave of Leicester attacks.
The Tigers made just two changes to the XV that won at Leeds, with Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni and fellow front-rower Boris Stankovich being handed starts while Croft was named on the bench. Wasps, rocked by the exit of Hanks, moved Ben Jacobs from fullback to the wing with Tom Varndell injured. Mark van Gisbergen and Nic Berry returned while Marty Veale, Joe Launchbury and Tom Lindsay came into the pack.
Wasps made a less than ideal start as Serge Betsen's illegal tackle on Staunton was punished by the Irishman dusting himself off to kick the resulting penalty in the third minute. Walder levelled in the eighth minute as he slotted a penalty after the Tigers defence were too eager in attempting to charge down his drop-goal effort, before repeating the dose from distance two minutes later.
But the lead lasted a matter of seconds as Walder's wide pass was picked off by Staunton, who had the simple task of dotting down under the sticks and adding the extras. And the fly-half capped a bad few minutes for Wasps by landing a long-range penalty after Dominic Waldouck held on in the tackle area to make it 13-6 after just 14 minutes.
Leicester's Martin Castrogiovanni takes the battle to Wasps © Getty Images
Walder booted his third penalty as the steady stream of penalties continued but it was Leicester who struck the next meaningful blow in the 29th minute. Van Gisbergen failed to gather a Staunton garryowen and Leicester worked the ball to Manu Tuilagi down the right. The ball was moved back left and a lovely pass from Skivington saw Mafi dummy before brushing off a weak Richard Haughton tackle to slide over, although Staunton missed with the conversion attempt.
Leicester's scrum had destroyed their Wasps counterparts in this fixture last season, and an impressive eight-man shove yielded a penalty that put the Tigers deep in Wasps territory, but the visitors did well to repel a strong diving maul to hold out before Walder was off target with a penalty right on half-time.
Staunton and Walder exchanged penalties early in the second half but the visitors were soon under pressure again and, after Walder had missed touch from a penalty, they were forced to absorb over 20 phases of Leicester attack in a magnificent defensive effort.
Croft made his return with 23 minutes remaining, replacing captain Craig Newby, and his first action was to help the Leicester scrum earn another penalty, but Staunton could not convert from out on the left.
The game was being played almost exclusively in the Wasps 22 but they continued to hold out admirably with Betsen to the fore as they again repelled the Leicester tide. They did manage to lift the siege but the Tigers were able to comfortably see out the final minutes with Waldrom, of all people, striking the bar with a late drop-goal attempt.
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