Rugby Union: Emeruwa an essential element: Wasps put Rugby to flight

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The Independent Online
Rugby . . .3

Wasps. . .34

THESE are high-flying days for Wasps, who down the years have been a headline-writer's dream team. The ones that mattered, though, came two seasons ago, when the capital side led by Rob Andrew snatched the First Division title on the very last day of league action thanks to a win over Saracens and the fall of title favourites Gloucester at Nottingham.

Now for the early pace-setters, it is a different view of life, one that really only Bath have been able to cope with. Wasps are there to be shot at, a situation that saw them struggle in the first half at Webb Ellis Road, where the lowly Rugby eventually hit rock bottom once Wasps had put their game together by breaking out just before the break and then running in a further four tries.

'We found it difficult to get going,' Francis Emeruwa said on Saturday. The back-row speaks from experience, though getting going in his case has been a painful battle against the odds. Come to think of it, it was two seasons ago that Wasps welcomed back Emeruwa for his first ever league outing some five and a half long years after his last match for the club.

That game at home to Nottingham marked a remarkable recovery from injury for the man who began the Eighties strongly tipped to walk into the England team but ended up wondering if he would ever walk properly again. It was in the Richmond Sevens in 1984 that Emeruwa broke an ankle and, after an operation, gangrene set in. He ended up suing the hospital and received an out-of-court settlement.

'I now just take every match as it comes,' he said, 'and I'm just happy to be playing league rugby. That's quite enough commitment because I learned a lot about life while I was out of the game.' A 31-year-old science teacher, Emeruwa means what he says and he has already turned down the opportunity of being considered for representative duty with London. 'I enjoy what I'm doing and that's playing for Wasps.'

Which he does well. Against Rugby, whose third defeat is worrying news in a season in which four sides from the First will be taking the drop, Emeruwa was always in the action. 'One leg is still weaker than the other,' he said, 'so they play me on the blind side and tell me to concentrate on knocking people down.'

Quite literally so, too, because in the fifth minute Emeruwa found himself involved in a lengthy brawl with the Rugby prop Trevor Revan. 'Out of character, I know, but he hurt me and I saw red,' Emeruwa said, from then on having to concentrate on more pressing matters. Rugby got the shove-on in the tight on a couple of occasions just to let Wasps know that you take nothing for granted in the league and they were level at a penalty apiece going into first-half injury time.

It was then that Wasps got going, a sweeping move off a line-out steal resulting in a try for Emeruwa's back-row colleague Mike White. The rest was all one- way traffic with Alan Buzza, who weighed in with 17 points, opening and closing the second half with two stunning tries in his sorties from full-back.

As for the twist in this tale, Wasps indicated that they may appeal against the 120-day league and cup ban imposed on Andrew when he returns from France next month.

Rugby: Penalty Mapletoft. Wasps: Tries White, Buzza 2, Oti, Ryan; Conversions Buzza 2, Pilgrim; Penalty Buzza.

Rugby: M Mapletoft; E Saunders, L Turnell, S Glover, S Bromley; R Pell, D Bishop (capt); G Tregilgas, S Brain, T Revan, S Smith, P Bowman, M R Ellis, M Charles, M J Ellis.

Wasps: A Buzza; S Pilgrim, A Maddock, G Childs, C Oti; A Thompson, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, D Ryan (capt), F Emeruwa, M Greenwood, M White.

Referee: C Henderson (Scotland).