Rugby Union: Lacroix exposes Wasps' gaping fault lines
Nigel Melville thought long and hard before settling on his choice of adjective, but when Wasps' faintly embarrassed and thoroughly harassed director of rugby finally delivered his verdict, there was a definite sense of anti-climax. "We were," he pronounced, "disappointing." Disappointing? What happened to sad, deplorable, inadequate, abject? The reigning champions were not just bad at The Stoop on Saturday, they were treasonable.
Consider this, if you will. Facing an unfamiliar and decidedly vulnerable- looking Harlequins starting line-up shorn, for one reason or another, of Will Carling, Jason Leonard, Keith Wood and Laurent Cabannes, Wasps contrived to concede six tries, all of them fairly daft, in suffering their most comprehensive stuffing in more than a decade of league endeavour. No one had drilled more points past the north Londoners in 150 competitive matches since the early autumn of 1987; never had they been defeated by so great a margin.
Quins' try tally included two laughable interception scores and while Daren O'Leary hardly required the foresight of Nostradamus to cut off Andy Reed's ham-fisted attempt to locate Kenny Logan before running 60 metres to turn the game on the stroke of half-time, it was Gareth Rees who touched new heights of comic genius by arrowing a misdirected gridiron pass into the waiting arms of Tulsen Tollett.
Add a penalty try and the softest of blind-side finishes from O'Leary following a scarcely credible heel against the head by a home front row who had spent all afternoon peering up their own backsides and you have one bad day at the office.
The question now is when Wasps will manage a good day at the office. Taking the Heineken Cup reverse against Brive into account, they have now lost five on the bounce - their worst run of results since Lawrence Dallaglio was taking cold baths and double Latin at Ampleforth.
Legitimately enough, Melville pointed to a debilitating injury list that continues to deprive the champions of Jon Ufton, Damian Hopley, Nick Greenstock, Andy Gomarsall and Will Green, but the fault lines run much deeper than that. Quite simply, Wasps have been found out.
Dallaglio remains an extraordinarily potent force of nature in all phases of the game and given the umpteen pounds of flesh extracted by England over the last month, the energy he poured into of his work at the weekend defied belief. But Wasps' inability to settle on effective replacements for Matt Greenwood and Buster White, whose aggressive and heavily stylised know-how at lock and open-side respectively lay at the very heart of last season's title drive, has narrowed their attacking options and made them far easier to second guess.
There are other problems. The All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies all underlined the immense value of a genuinely fast strike-runner at full- back and while Rees remains a uniquely gifted footballer, he looks more like an Olympic shot-putter than a 100 metre specialist. More worrying still is the sudden collapse of the "black wall" defence, once the pride of Shepherd's Bush but now reduced to rubble. From Hadrian to Jericho in the space of six, short months.
If Melville was in an acute state of puzzled discomfort - "To be quite honest, I don't think we're playing much differently to last season," he said - his opposite number was equally taken aback. Andy Keast, a tactical whizz-kid whose increasingly radical stance on team selection deserves to pay dividends, had not dared expect anything like a 50-point return from a must-win derby.
"We certainly didn't anticipate being able to open up the game so comprehensively," he admitted. "We thought we would have to go right to the wire to get a result."
How gloriously wrong can you get? Once Quins emerged from an occasionally fraught first half with a 12-point lead, courtesy of O'Leary's opportunist breakaway in the 39th minute and 17 points from the right boot of Thierry Lacroix, they were able to use their own extreme pace to counter their rivals' laborious brand of catch-up rugby.
Lacroix enjoyed one of his special days, even though a hitherto successfully concealed stomach bug sent him scurrying to the little boys' room during the interval. ("He was pretty sick, but if he's going to play like that he can have every bug going," grinned Keast). Having contributed three penalties, a brace of drop goals and a conversion during the first 40, the Frenchman completed a full house by running in a 69th-minute try following the most grandiose of Gallic dummies from his countryman, the substitute Cabannes.
Yet it was by no stretch of the imagination a one-man show. The collective gas emitted by O'Leary, Tollett, Laurent Belligoi, Jamie Williams and the outstanding Johnny Ngauamo will almost certainly be on the agenda at the next Kyoto Conference.
On this evidence, Quins will be refreshing their coffers with Heineken Cup money again next year. Sadly for Wasps, there is only one, more traditional Heineken activity likely to interest them in the near future. Drown those sorrows, boys.
Harlequins: Tries O'Leary 2, Williams, penalty try, Lacroix, Tollett. Conversions Lacroix 3, Challinor. Penalties Lacroix 3. Drop goals Lacroix 2. Wasps: Tries Ions, penalty try; Conversions Rees 2; Penalty Rees.
Harlequins: J Williams; D O'Leary, J Keyter, J Ngauamo (T Tollett, 55), L Belligoi; T Lacroix (P Challinor, 73), N Walshe; D Rouse, T Billups (K Wood, 13), M Cuttitta, G Llewellyn, R Strudwick, R Jenkins (L Cabannes, 53), A Leach, B Davison (capt).
Wasps: G Rees; S Roiser, L Scrase, R Henderson (A James, 81), K Logan; A King, M Wood; D Molloy, S Mitchell (T Leota, 18), I Dunston, M Weedon, A Reed (S Shaw, 57), L Dallaglio (capt), C Sheasby, J Ions (J Worsley, 66).
Referee: J Fleming (Scotland).
Latest in Sport
Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Best memes as Twitter reacts to imminent £16m transfer
Manchester United transfer news: Louis van Gaal joins Arsenal and Chelsea in the race for Sami Khedira
Mario Balotelli takes 50 per cent pay cut to join Liverpool as Samuel as Eto’o waits in the wings if deal falls through
Crystal Palace next manager latest: Palace consider Ally McCoist - EXCLUSIVE
Click here for the full story." title="When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Click here for the full story." width="88" height="52" />Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...
£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...
£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...