Rugby Union: Potter runs Wasps ragged

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The Independent Online
Leicester 45

Wasps 21

THE LONGER this one-sided contest went on the easier it was to understand Wasps' current plight. They are admittedly seriously inconvenienced by injury and yesterday they had to labour without the inspirational leadership of Lawrence Dallaglio, but, quite simply, Wasps are not a very good side. This should not in any way disguise the fact that Leicester are an extremely fine team and despite the fact that they are languishing some distance behind Newcastle and Saracens, the best equipped to win the league.

The scoreline, inflated as it was by five tries in the last six minutes, two of them to the Wasps wing Kenny Logan, didn't begin to convey the roasting the Tigers pack inflicted on the Wasps eight. Their skill in the tight was evident in the number of times they rocked their opponents back in the scrum. Their locks Martin Johnson and Fritz van Heerden obliterated their opposite numbers and in the loose the Leicester back row literally ran rings around everyone including, occasionally, their own players. Some of the interpassing between forwards and backs defied belief and the naked eye and although Leicester made an unusually high number of unforced errors, they stuck to their strategy of running Wasps into the ground.

Wasps' injury problems are clearly affecting them both fore and aft and yesterday the Leicester midfield were given the freedom of the pitch. Stuart Potter is in any case enjoying a rich seam of form at the moment and yesterday the gaps opened up whenever he had the ball. Joel Stransky picked his way intelligently through the carnage and finished with 25 points from a try, four penalties and four conversions. He is playing sublime rugby and all at Leicester are reaping the benefits.

The first try of the match, scored midway through the first half, was the best. Every man jack of the Tigers side was involved at some stage in the build-up, but it was Stransky with a series of feints and dummies who engineered space for Martin Corry on the left and, a good 60 seconds and 14 pairs of hands later it was Michael Horak who scored in the right hand corner.

The only surprise thereafter was that Leicester were unable to build a more substantial score before half-time. Stransky added two more penalties to the first he had kicked in the second minute when it was already obvious that the Leicester forwards would prove too much for Wasps to hold. From the kick-off they had, in two mighty drives, carried the ball 60 yards downfield and into kicking range for Stransky.

Even then Wasps must have read the signs and must have known what fate had in store for them, but with Gareth Rees kicking three penalties they were only five points adrift at the break. Even more remarkably they were just 15 points in arrears with five minutes left despite being obliterated in all areas of the field. Stransky had kicked his fourth penalty and Austin Healey had scored Leicester's second try, yet Wasps appeared to have escaped the punishment which was their due.

But then reality struck. Another tidal wave of running and passing put Andrew Leeds clear for the line but, just as he was about to launch himself over, Paul Sampson propelled himself at the Tigers full-back - almost decapitating him in the process. Steve Lander, the referee, had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try and at the same time gave the young Wasps full- back a stern wigging. This was a pity for Sampson, who had shown an impressive turn of speed and caused the Leicester defence their few moments of concern.

A minute after Sampson's abberation the Wasps defence opened up again for Horak to put Stransky over and then Potter cleared the way for Waisale Serevi to score Leicester's fifth try two minutes later. There were still two minutes plus injury-time remaining when, with Leicester already immersed in their post-match celebrations, Logan crossed their unguarded line twice to gave Wasps a measure of respectability, but little comfort.

Leicester: A Leeds; M Horak, J Overend, S Potter, L Lloyd (W Serevi, 60); J Stransky, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill (D West, 63), D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F Van Heerden, L Moody, M Corry (P Gustard, 60), N Back.

Wasps: P. Sampson; S Roiser, L Scrase, G Rees, K Logan; A King, M Friday; D Molloy, S Mitchell (T Leota, 63), W Green, D Cronin (capt) (M Weegon, 63), S Shaw, J Worsley (C Sheasby, 24), P Scrivener, M White.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool)