They had stood by helplessly as Leicester, with devastating power and accuracy, had demolished Wasps' 13-point lead at half-time. The Tigers were irresistible at this stage, their lineout - in which Martin Johnson was head and shoulders above the rest - as dominant as their scrum, which was heaving the Wasps eight all over the field. Rory Underwood had scored a flashing try, and a Leicester victory seemed inevitable when John Liley, with his flawless strike rate of five kicks out of five, levelled the scores at 22-22 with his sixth effort and only 16 minutes remaining.
But if Leicester had Liley, Wasps had Rob Andrew, who had become a father for the second time during the week and who therefore could be excused for having other things on his mind. But there are few more single-minded souls than Andrew, and after a couple of false starts early on he settled the ship and stilled the rising fears of the Wasps' support with a penalty and three beautiful drop goals to add to the conversion of Damien Hopley's try in the first half.
When he was called up to take the kick which could decide the match, he was therefore so thoroughly in the groove that he simply could not miss, even though the kick had to be fired a long way through the blustery wind. There were now just four minutes remaining for Leicester to save themselves. They twisted, they turned, they drove and finally they blazed forward, with the Underwood brothers linking sweetly on the left touchline.
Tony Underwood's flick-past fell invitingly into Stuart Potter's path. The road to glory was suddenly beckoning and Potter was halfway down it, the champagne corks already popping in his ears. But then, as if by some demonic hand, the ball tumbled from his grasp. The chance, and there could never be a better, was gone. Leicester were finished.
Wasps regrouped, and with their captain Dean Ryan holding the ball at the back of a series of twisting scrummages, much to the fury of the crowd and the intense irritation of his opponents, they were back in command. If Leicester had forced Wasps to compromise on their sense of adventure which has so illuminated the club scene this season, Wasps succeeded in thwarting the Tigers in those areas where they are traditionally strong. We saw too little of their shuddering power in the mauls and, despite Neil Back's best efforts, they were unable to clear the ball quickly enough from the rucks. They missed Dean Richards badly.
Furthermore, their decision to re-engage Jez Harris as a goalkicker following his early lapse and Liley's subsequent success was a bewildering one. He missed two kickable penalties when Liley was the kicker in form. Even so, they probably felt reasonably confident approaching half-time, when Wasps were restricted to a six-point lead. Then Buster White smashed through the Leicester midfield, and with Andrew and Norman Hadley clearing the way, Damien Hopley scored a try which Andrew converted. Suddenly the second- half amble had become a long, hard climb and although Wasps' discipline failed them occasionally, with Ryan and Hadley being shown the yellow card, their mobility, courage and spirit were always in evidence.
Leicester: J Liley; T Underwood, D Edwards, S Potter, R Underwood; J Harris, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells (capt), N Back, C Tarbuck.
Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, D Hopley, G Childs, S Roiser; R Andrew, S Bates; N Popplewell, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, N Hadley, L Dallaglio, M White, D Ryan (capt).
Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).Reuse content