Rees overcomes attrition

Wasps 14 Leicester 7
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The Independent Online
There really was a sting in this Wasps' tale after a match not fit to be put before such a magnificent crowd. The 10,686 - a record for Wasps - were subjected to plenty of push and pull, but little thrust. That Wasps finally nosed in front yesterday was ultimately their due reward. At least they had shown more enterprise out wide.

Gareth Rees, having missed five of his previous seven penalty attempts landed the one that mattered with two minutes to go. Substitute Phil Hopley's try in injury time was simply a bonus and Wasps had achieved a remarkable feat; it is the first time in the League that Bath and Leicester have been beaten in successive weeks by the same side. And victory drew Wasps level on points with the leaders, Quins, who have a far superior points difference.

The defences were good, magnificent even, but not that good. The best chance of the game saw Rory Underwood, at full steam and a choice of going left or right choosing instead to sling a pass to the unmarked John Liley. The full-back raced over the line but the referee, Steve Lander, had spotted that it was a forward pass and brought everyone back.

That signalled a remarkable spell for Wasps. A succession of penalties carried them deep into Tiger country, and having got there they stayed. Andy Gomarsall made a blind-side break from a scrum and Hopley was on hand for the scoring pass.

That was the sum total of the action. Attritional goes some way to describing the remainder of the game. Leicester did begin with a try but unfortunately it was not quite of their own making. Lander, who had awarded a controversial penalty try which robbed Leicester of the Pilkington Cup against Bath in May, this time found in Tigers favour when a Wasp hand stole into a scrum close to their line. John Liley converted and for the next 78 minutes the Tigers held on to what resembled more of a soccer scoreline than the cricket scores rugby fans have grown used to witnessing this season.

Ian Smith, their assistant director of coaching, acknowledged wasted opportunities, before pointing out that on the last four occasions that Lander has officiated in matches involving Leicester they have lost.

They certainly looked to have lost their way. "With more sides having the calibre of players that we and Bath have had for the last few years it will be more difficult for anyone," Smith said. "I would not be surprised if the championship came down to points difference at the end of the season."

There were some outstanding performances on both sides. Austin Healey finished with a black eye but made life difficult for his opposite number Gomarsall. Chris Sheasby buzzed here, there and everywhere in Wasps cause and enveloped many a Tiger in his warm embrace. Va'aiga Tuigamala rediscovered the lines of running he used to take as an All Black and added some rock- like defence to an inventive Wasps back line.

Wasps: Try P Hopley; Penalties Rees 3. Leicester: Try Penalty try; Conversion J Liley.

Wasps: G Rees; P Sampson (P Hopley, 39), N Greenstock, V Tuigamala, S Roiser; A King, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, S Mitchell, M Griffiths, D Cronin, M Greenwood, M White, L Dallaglio, C Sheasby (P Scrivener 3-4 and 13-14).

Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney (M Jones, 64), W Greenwood, S Potter, R Underwood; R Liley, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, J Wells, E Miller, D Richards (W Drake-Lee, 79).

Referee: S Lander (Irby, Wirral).

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