Wasps 23 London Irish 13: Dallaglio and Vickery return to lift Wasps

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The Independent Online

A reassuring win for Wasps, after two defeats, was one thing, even if their chances of defending the Anglo-Welsh Cup virtually ended with the Cardiff Blues' bonus-point win over Saracens. Better news for club and country was the successful return of two World Cup winners, Lawrence Dallaglio and Phil Vickery. Both came through intact, with Dallaglio lasting the distance, and Wasps duly defeated a London Irish side who looked practically uninterested at times. Nevertheless, the Exiles can still reach the semi-final if they win well enough in Cardiff in December.

Dallaglio looked in better shape than Vickery, which was understandable as his rehabilitation has been from the mere removal of a large metal plate from his ankle, while Vickery is having to contend with the insertion of who knows what into his spine so that it can continue to withstand the rigours of life in the front row.

"I felt better after finishing that game than any game last season," said Dallaglio, "just because my whole leg is a lot better than last year. I didn't expect to play a whole game, but the pace was pretty slow in the first half and that probably enabled Phil and I to play a bit longer than perhaps we might have done had it been a higher-tempo game."

Dallaglio got the best out of his back row, James Haskell in particular, and within 10 minutes of his return had scored a try, marshalling a line-out and drive over the line.

Wasps hogged most of the ball, but they are struggling to find a lightness of touch. An unseemly number of passes bounced along the floor. They gave young Danny Cipriani, fresh from training with England, his first first-team start at fly-half, but he had a mixed afternoon, missing three penalties in the first half.

Irish were only slightly more accurate with what little ball they could secure, but it was enough for a fine try by Riki Flutey in the 21st minute. With the scores locked at 10-10, though, they found themselves up against it when the Armitage brothers - first Steffon, then Delon - spent time in the sin-bin for offences that looked worse than they were.

Irish survived Steffon's absence without conceding, but Delon's time stretched into the second half when Wasps struck after a lengthy build-up, Tom Voyce eventually scything through the remnants of Irish's tiring defence.

Brian Smith, Irish's director of rugby, was particularly aggrieved with the yellow cards. "We had a First Division ref last week and we had one this," he said, "so you have to ask how seriously people are taking this competition. I thought Andrew Small made a fist [mess] of it today."

Wasps brought on the cavalry for the final quarter, including Alex King for Cipriani, and finally tightened things up. Irish never threatened in the second half, but they are the ones still in with a reasonable chance in this much-maligned competition.

Wasps: Tries Dallaglio, Voyce; Conversions Cipriani 2; Penalties Cipriani 2, King. London Irish: Try Flutey; Conversion Everitt; Penalty Everitt, Flutey.

Wasps: J Brooks; D Doherty, D Waldouck, F Waters, T Voyce; D Cipriani (A King 54), S Amor (E Reddan, 54); T Payne (N Adams 71), J Barrett, P Vickery (P Bracken, 54), G Skivington (S Shaw, 54; M Purdy 56-65), R Birkett, J Haskell, T Rees, L Dallaglio (capt).

London Irish: M Horak; D Armitage, G Tiesi, R Flutey, S Tagicakibau; B Everitt (capt; S Mapusua, 47), R Rees; T Lea'aetoa, D Coetzee (D Paice, 49), R Skuse (D Murphy, 80), N Kennedy (J Hudson 54), K Roche (E Thorpe, 66), A McCullen (Johnson, 62), S Armitage P Murphy.

Referee: A Small (Bedfordshire).

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