Varndell brace seals Wasps victory
September 5, 2009
Tom Varndell scored a brace on debut for Wasps
© Getty Images
Wasps deprived Harlequins of a cathartic victory by running out 26-15 winners in the second game of the London Double Header at Twickenham.
With the fallout from 'Bloodgate' still fuelling the headlines, Quins were thwarted by a debut brace for Wasps wing Tom Varndell and a penalty try, playing 79 minutes with 14 men after George Robson was sent off for an alleged head-butt on Joe Simpson after almost the first phase of play.
Showing excellent character, they stole ahead thanks to tries from Ugo Monye and Gonzalo Camacho, but were undone by the simple weight of numbers in front of a bumper crowd of 67,684 at the home of English rugby.
After Harlequins had digested the news that today's referee was the inconveniently named Dean Richards, tempers boiled over immediately and Robson was traipsing down the tunnel accompanied by the cheers of a healthy Wasps contingent in the crowd.
Quins failed to settle and the opening five minutes saw a missed penalty-touch from Nick Evans and some fragility under the high ball from makeshift fullback Monye. A brutish rolling maul from Wasps calmed a frantic opening but Danny Care lit the touch paper.
A quick tap saw the England No.9 clear and some fine link play with prop Ceri Jones allowed Evans the time to plant a perfectly-judged kick in to David Strettle's arms. The wing danced through a Wasps tackle and produced a miraculous one-handed offload to Monye, who wasn't to be stopped.
Wasps' reply wasn't long in coming, as arch-finisher Varndell celebrated his first try in black and gold. The England Sevens star started and finished the move, racing clear from the Quins defence and keeping the ball alive long enough for Danny Cipriani to draw the remaining tacklers and return the ball five metres out.
It was another debutant who restored Quins' advantage only minutes later. Care was again instrumental in the build-up as he sprayed a cross-kick in behind the Wasps defence, Varndell missing from his post on the wing and allowing Camacho to scoot in untouched.
Wasps fullback Mark van Gisbergen slotted penalties either side of an effort by Evans as both teams continued to play expansively, Wasps conspicuously searching out the electric Varndell at every opportunity.
A speculative grubber brought Wasps' second try after their forwards stole the ensuing Quins lineout, quick ball ensuring a huge overlap out wide. Varndell popped up again, powering through two tackles and wrestling the ball to the ground.
Wasps' collective tail was up as half-time approached and had scrum-half Simpson not ignored the support after a rasping break they may well have sealed the points before the break.
Mistakes began to creep in to the game after the resumption, with missed touches and handling errors slowing the breakneck pace. Wasps looked to exploit their man advantage with a series of drives around the fringes, but Simpson was twice guilty of taking his time at the ruck and was summarily turned over by an aggressive Quins back-row.
Evans dragged a penalty across the face of the posts during a rare excursion in to Wasps' territory, a miss that was punished by van Gisbergen's third penalty of the evening. Wasps would have hoped for more when Ben Jacobs arched his way through the Quins defence but slow ball to Simpson meant that they were forced to settle for three points.
Despite packing down with seven men, Quins drew a penalty from a scrum just outside the Wasps 22 as time wore down but again Evans saw his kick drop harmlessly wide of the uprights to leave the deficit at four points.
Wasps sealed the points with a penalty try, hammering away with their maul against the 14 men of Quins after bravely turning down a close-range penalty to go for the jugular. Van Gisbergen converted for the victory - with Quins left to answer more questions.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Ireland's Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton