Rugby Union: 38 London Irish 27 - Wasps' nest too painful for Irish

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FORGET WESTMINSTER, England's leading clubs want European money. Places in next season's competition are up for grabs, although London Irish began this game at Loftus Road as if they could not care less. But Wasps certainly do and this win lifted them to fifth in the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

A fortnight ago the Irish were sent packing on the same ground in the quarter-finals of the Tetley's Bitter cup.

Yesterday they were dealt with even more soundly. Only a late flurry, as Wasps' concentration wandered, earned them a modicum of respectability. But fourth-placed Irish had never recovered from the shock of conceding two tries in three minutes.

The opener came when No 8 Peter Scrivener turned mole to burrow his way under a pile of bodies for the first of his two scores. The second was the result of some work by outside-half Alex King and centre Mark Denney before Paul Sampson was put over in the corner.

Usually the Exiles can count on Brendan Venter and Steve Bachop to direct matters. Unfortunately for Irish, during the first half they seemed intent on settling old scores that had perhaps simmered for the last two weeks.

Opportunities to spread the ball were eschewed by South African Venter in favour of taking the ball into contact. Not a good idea when Wasps are the opposition. Bachop appeared to have his mind elsewhere. When the countless handling errors committed by most of the rest of the side were taken into consideration, the upshot was that possession was turned over with sickening regularity. Penalties also abounded, generally punished by Kenny Logan, Wasps international wing, who notched up 18 points.

It was surprising that Nick Burrows, London Irish's immensely talented England A centre, was not only in receipt of a pass during this torrid period, but that he was able to score a fine try. That first half touchdown came courtesy of a superb break by Niall Woods and some good support from captain Conor O'Shea.

But it was not until the match was well into its third quarter that Irish began to compete. Until then the admirable Jake Boer and Woods had seemed to be battling on their own and the Exiles' revival coincided, not surprisingly, with Venter's decision to look for players outside him.

He scored one try during which Woods collapsed and departed with a hamstring injury that could keep him out for at least six weeks, and Venter then made another big break to set up a fine try for Justin Bishop. If only they could have begun like that.

Wasps: Tries Scrivener 2, Sampson, Weedon; Conversions Logan 3; Penalties Logan 4. London Irish: Tries Burrows, Venter, Bishop; Conversions Woods, Cunningham 2; Penalties Woods 2.

Wasps: G Rees; P Sampson, F Waters, M Denney, K Logan; A King, M Wood (M Friday, 54); D Molloy, T Leota (S Mitchell, 68), W Green, M Weedon (capt), A Reed (S Shaw, 59), L Dallaglio, P Scrivener, J Worsley.

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, N Burrows, B Venter, N Woods (J Cunningham, 72); S Bachop, K Putt; N Hatley (P Rogers, 57), M Howe (R Kirke,63), K Fullman (R Hardwick, 45), R Strudwick (M Bird, 74), N Harvey, J Boer, K Spicer, R Gallacher.

Referee: C Hawke (New Zealand).