Rugby Union: Hopley eclipses the prodigal

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Wasps. . . . .18

London Irish. .9

ROB ANDREW'S nightmare completed a full week's cycle at Sudbury and depressing reading it makes - defeat in Cardiff last Saturday, dropped by England on Thursday and removed from the firing-line as first-choice goal kicker by Wasps yesterday. Where will it all end?

Andrew is seeking clear-the-air talks with Geoff Cooke, the England manager, although after this performance he might consider sparing himself the embarrassment. To say recent events have had an effect on his game would be putting it mildly, because against the Irish his world seemed to be falling apart.

Having won back his league place after completing the 120-day ban imposed on his return from France, the outside-half was looking to score points in all senses. He had a clear chance, too, of easing his way on to the scoreboard since Steve Pilgrim, who has been potting the goals for Wasps, incurred his own ban for having what he described as a 'job interview' with the Leeds rugby league club.

Two minutes into the match and Andrew was lining up his first penalty from 35 yards, but the ball sailed wide. He then missed two conversion attempts and two more penalties before his captain, Dean Ryan, called up Phil Hopley to take over the role of subduing the Irish and the wing did just that.

In fact, Hopley had quite a match in helping to preserve Wasps' unbeaten presence at the top of the table. While his brother, Damian, was away in Malaysia playing in a 10-a-side tournament, Hopley senior contributed two tries and a penalty to the cause while Andrew was still fighting off depression.

Three penalties from Michael Corcoran was the sum total of Irish scoring on the way to their fifth defeat in the League, Steve Bates setting Wasps on the winning road with a try in the seventh minute. Andrew at least had a hand in this and so, too, did Buster White and Fran Clough.

The rest was down to Hopley. His first try came midway through the opening half, and his penalty left the Irish trailing 13-9 at the break. Wasps subsequently lost Ryan with a shoulder injury, but Hopley completed Wasps' eighth straight victory and - mercy be - thanks to Andrew's scoring pass.

Wasps: A Buzza; P Hopley, F Clough, G Childs, C Oti; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, D Ryan (capt, P Delaney 38 min), F Emeruwa, M Greenwood, M White.

London Irish: R Hennessy; S Geoghegan, D Curtis, R Smith, M Corcoran; P Burke, R Saunders; N Donovan, M Patton, A Hayes, C Hall, M Keenan, P Collins, B Robinson, D Pegler (capt).

Referee: C Rees (London).

Scores: Corcoran (pen, 5 min 0-3); Bates (try, 6 min, 5-3); Corcoran (pen, 10 min, 5-6); Hopley (try, 22 min, 10-6); Corcoran (pen, 25 min, 10-9); Hopley (pen, 33 min, 13-9); Hopley (try, 51 min,