Wasps spoil Quins' big match party
December 27, 2009
Man of the Match: Wasps lock Simon Shaw takes the attack to Harlequins
© Getty Images
London Wasps produced a superb defensive display to notch a narrow 21-20 victory over Harlequins in front of a record Premiership crowd at Twickenham.
Tries from scrum-half Joe Simpson and blindside John Hart and the combined kicking exploits of Danny Cipriani and Dave Walder proved enough to spoil Harlequins' hopes of ending a troubled year on a high in front of 76,617 fans. Second half tries from No.9 Danny Care and winger David Strettle and ten points from the boot of fly-half Nick Evans kept the 'hosts' in what was an entertaining game but in the end they were denied by a resolute Wasps side who made heavy weather of beating their rivals.
Cipriani, linked with a move to Stade Francais this week, was handed the Wasps No.10 shirt for the first time since suffering a fractured leg in October but the 22-year-old had a disappointing return - missing five of his seven kicks at goal. In the end it was left to replacement Walder to steer Wasps home after entering the fray in the second half.
In a frenetic opening, Wasps stole an early advantage with the first try of the game for Simpson. Lock George Skivington pounced on a defensive lapse from Quins to power away from a ruck before chipping ahead into open space. Strettle made a mess of tidying up the ball on his own line which allowed the lightning quick Simpson the easiest of scores. Cipriani showed signs of ring rust by pulling his conversion attempt horribly wide of the posts.
Evans reduced the arrears with a fine long-range effort just short of the quarter hour and Quins continued to press with the Kiwi fly-half pulling the strings. They were rewarded further for their endeavour with a second penalty for Evans after Wasps were penalised for offside. More indiscipline from Wasps gifted Quins another strong attacking position midway through the half and a smart break from scrum-half Danny Care had his opponents scrambling to good effect. Quins were the next to be penalised, this time for coming in from the side and Cipriani found his range with the subsequent kick to reclaim the lead for his side.
Quins prop Ceri Jones was the next to be feel the wrath of the referee for pulling down a scrum and a bullish Cipriani opted for a shot at the posts from inside his own half - but his effort fell just short of the posts. A strong run from man of the match Simon Shaw spearheaded the next significant attack, driving into the Quins 22 where Will Skinner was penalised to allow Cipriani a much easier opportunity to extend his side's lead. A body check from Shaw on Strettle immediately allowed Evans the chance to reduce the arrears but his kick was wide of the mark. A high tackle from prop Tim Payne on Quins fullback Mike Brown gave Evans a chance to redeem himself a minute later but his off day with the boot continued and meant Wasps went into the break with a five point advantage.
Quins hooker Tani Fuga was penalised for not releasing shortly after the re-start but Cipriani was again off-target with his long range penalty. Quins' disciplinary woes continued to plague their play with tight-head Mark Lambert the next guilty party - but again Cipriani's boot let them off and it was a similar story a few minutes later.
The game was up for grabs as it entered the final quarter and a kick ahead from Walder had Quins under pressure and although Ugo Monye escaped punishment for what looked like a trip on the replacement No.10, another penalty followed from the lineout and Walder stepped up to edge his side further ahead.
Forced to chase the game, Quins gave the ball some air and a poor pass to Monye saw a huge over-lap go to waste but they were not deterred. Great pace from the lively Care then took Quins close and the scrum-half was involved twice more as his side closed in on the line. Replacement Tom Guest was the next to go close before Care burrowed through a pile of bodies to grab a deserved try. Evans' conversion brought Quins to within a point and set-up a grandstand finale worthy of the occasion.
Wasps were stung into action by Quins' late rally and a sustained spell of possession ended with first Shaw and then replacement Bob Baker driving into the heart of a tiring Quins defence before feeding Hart who powered through to score. Walder's conversion cemented their lead but Quins refused to concede defeat with Strettle capitalising on a rare lapse from Wasps to race away to score under the posts. Evans' swift conversion made it a one-point game with a minute left on the clock but a ferocious final effort from Wasps snuffed out any hope Quins had of a late turnaround.
"This team deserves to be recognised as the greatest of all time." Huw Richards looks at Gareth Edwards' final match for Wales
The two leading contenders for the best modern open-side flanker go head to head in Paris on Saturday. John Taylor assesses the tale of the tape