Wasps upset Irish at Adams Park
November 21, 2010
Wasps' Tom Varndell celebrates on his way to a try
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London Wasps injected life back into their Aviva Premiership campaign with a 33-25 victory over high-flying London Irish in an entertaining clash at Adams Park.
Tries from outside centre Ben Jacobs, his midfield partner Steve Kefu and winger Tom Varndell powered Wasps to their fourth win of the season with the assured presence of fly-half Dave Walder adding four penalties and three conversions to hand Irish only their second defeat of the season. Tries from scrum-half Paul Hodgson and centre Daniel Bowden had looked like they might fire the Exiles back to the top of the table but they could not contain the hosts and not even a late try for replacement Paulica Ion was good enough for a losing bonus point.
Wasps gifted Irish an early chance to open the scores when wing Tom Varndell was guilty of drifting offside but luckily for him Lamb was unable to land the difficult kick from out wide. Wasps responded to that let off with a promising passage of play with first wing Richard Haughton and then flanker Joe Worsley powering forward and that pressure eventually drew a penalty they Walder slotted to open the scores. But Irish wasted no time in launching a riposte and their forward muscle took the game deep into Wasps' 22 where a scrum penalty allowed Lamb to level the scores.
Walder could have edged his side ahead once more a few minutes later but a poor connection saw his latest penalty veer wide of its target. But he was not the only one struggling for form with the boot with Lamb shanking his latest effort after veteran Wasps lock Simon Shaw as penalised for a clumsy challenge on Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson.
Wasps faired so much better with ball in hand with Walder laying the foundation for the opening try of the game which is set to be a contender for try of the season. A clever tap and go at a 22 drop out caught Irish asleep and quick ball and the pace of scrum-half Joe Simpson and Varndell had the visitors scampering back in defence. A great line from centre Steve Kefu then took them into the 22 where he found midfield partner Jacobs who crashed through three challenges to force his way over for the score that was converted by Walder.
But Irish showed their title credential with a smart and power-packed try of their own. The visitors capitalised on a dominant scrum with short side break from No.8 Chris Hala'ufia who sent Wasps wing Richard Haughton flying with a superb hand-off before finding Hodgson on his inside. The Irish No.9 then injected a burst of pace before cutting inside and shouldering the challenge of the cover defence on his way to touching down. Lamb was unable to add the extras and Walder nailed his next penalty moments later to stretch his side's lead.
Irish piled forward in search of an immediate reply with wing Topsy Ojo leading the charge but another penalty against Wasps loose-head Tim Payne - this time for offside - resulted in a yellow card for the England international and another three points for Lamb. But they failed to reclaim the lead just before the break when a long range penalty attempt from fullback Jamie Lennard sailed wide of the posts.
London Irish came out firing in the second half with strong bursts from centres Daniel Bowden and Elvis Seveali'I making big gains before Lamb caused panic with a chip ahead. Wasps failed to clean up inside their own 22 and Bowden pounced on the loose ball to grab his side's second try despite a suspicion of a knock on by Irish prop Clarke Dermody in the build up. The score gave the Exiles the lead which Lamb cemented with the simple conversion.
As had been the pattern of the game, Wasps offered a swift reply with Walder again the provider after his forwards had drawn a penalty at the breakdown. Back to full strength Wasps found an extra gear and their desire to get the ball wide was rewarded with another penalty but Walder's latest effort fell just wide.
The lively Hodgson continued to trouble the Wasps defence but his efforts to orchestrate another score for his side were thwarted by some excellent defence from the hosts with wing Jamie Joseph, lock Nick Kennedy and flanker Steffon Armitage all denied close to the Wasps line.
And in a classic counter punch Wasps conjured another excellent try of their own to regain the lead. A great change in direction following a scrum on half way foxed the Irish defence with Jacobs ghosting through before finding support in Walder. Flanker Joe Worsley then took up his side's cause and although he was hauled down just short the ball was recycled to Kefu who dived over for the score. Walder's conversion gave Wasps a five point cushion and set up a thrilling finale but he failed to give his side a little more breathing room with his next penalty.
Irish dug deep in search of a late turnaround but a big hit by Worsley forced a crucial turnover that led to the match-winning score. Jacobs again proved to be the danger man with another incisive break and a delightful off load found Varndell who powered away down the touchline for a try. Walder's conversion extended his personal tally but his side were guilty of switching off in the closing stages as Irish battled back to within losing bonus point range.
Replacement Richard Thorp took the ball close after a free kick inside the Wasps 22 and Ion burrowed his way over from close range to put the home side's nerves on edge. Lamb's conversion then brought the Exiles back to within a try but one final penalty from Walder ended their hopes of rescuing anything from the game.
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.