Rugby Union: Andrew's leading role keeps Wasps on the roll

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The Independent Online
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CONSIDERING he had half his mind on Mr Blobby this was a particularly useful performance from Rob Andrew. John Gasson, the Wasps' gregarious media officer, solemnly announced that the England stand-off was not available for comment because he had disappeared from the ground soon after the whistle.

'He has a private engagement,' Gasson said. 'I don't know what it is and I wouldn't tell you even if I knew.' Andrew's private engagement was an invitation to Noel's House Party on BBC 1. Such is the high profile of the modern international. Andrew did not have time to collect his man of the match award after kicking Wasps to a victory that keeps alive their slender chances of becoming the Courage champions.

'We've got to beat Bath and we've got to beat Leicester,' Rob Smith, the Wasps coach said. 'The trouble with the league is that it could be all done and dusted in three or four more games. The teams in the middle of the table would have very little incentive and that would affect the gates. What has happened has revitalised English rugby but we still need to take another look at the league format.'

Instead of straightforward relegation and promotion, Smith would like to see play-offs to sustain interest and would cap the season with an Anglo-Welsh tournament between the most successful clubs.

In the most miserable conditions Andrew's kicking was of the highest order and he was given ample opportunity to demonstrate his skill by a referee who gave the impression that he would have made a first-class railway guard at Crewe junction. In all, Ashley Rowden, refereeing his first First Division match, blew for 40 penalties, or one every two minutes.

Orrell, who had elected to play into the teeth of the wind, spent most of the first half shivering behind the posts as Andrew took pot shots at them from all over the ground. He even tried one from 10 yards inside his own half. He was successful with five penalties and converted a try which he helped to create to give Wasps a 22-3 lead at half-time.

If anything, Wasps were under more pressure in the second half than Orrell had been in the first. The difference, simply, is that Wasps had a goalkicker, Orrell did not, at least not until Simon Langford came on as a replacement. With Dewi Morris probing effectively, Orrell had numerous chances to get back into the game. Alun Peacock, Steve Taberner (from in front of the posts) and Matt Farr all failed with kicks at goal. Mr Blobby himself could hardly have done any worse.

When they were presented with another couple of chances, an exasperated Taberner decided to run the ball, eschewing kicks at goal. When the lame Peacock belatedly departed, Langford's first touch was to tee up the ball for a penalty and then he and Jim Naylor helped to put Paul Hamer clear for a try. He had crossed once before after a brilliant take by Taberner but the Orrell captain's pass was forward.

With the deficit down to nine points and with Morris dancing around a pack that was beginning to exert some pressure, victory for Orrell, who have never beaten Wasps in the league, was not inconceivable. However, on the two occasions that Wasps gained a foothold in Orrell territory in the second half, Andrew, Noel's invitation burning a hole in his pocket, banged over two more penalties. He will be in front of the television cameras again next Saturday for a more demanding engagement, Wasps' Pilkington Cup tie at Bath.

Wasps: Try Bates; Conversion Andrew; Penalties Andrew 7. Orrell: Try Hamer; Conversion Langford; Penalties Langford 2, Peacock.

Wasps: H Davies; P Hopley, L Scrase, D Hopley, S Hunter; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, D Ryan (capt), N Dyte, L Dallaglio, C Wilkins.

Orrell: S Taberner (capt); J Naylor, P Johnson, M Farr, P Hamer; A Peacock (S Langford, 56), D Morris; M Hynes, G French, D Southern, C Cooper, C Brierley, P Manley, D Cleary, S Hayter.

Referee: A Rowden (Reading).

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