Tries: Bracken, Constable Tries: Roiser
Grewcock, Johnson Volley
Ravenscroft, Sella Cons: Rees
R Wallace Pens: Rees 2
Cons: Lynagh 5
Half-time: 29-6 Attendance: 61,000
IN THE enervating heat of Twickenham at the end of a long and, at times, physically brutal season, it was stamina as much as skill which was the decisive factor in Saracens' first ever cup final victory. The truth is that Saracens were so far in front on both counts that a disappointingly uneven and one-sided contest was all over long before the halfway stage, by which time Saracens had established an unassailable 29-6 lead.
Two delicious touches of artistry by the old masters Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella, both making their farewell appearances on the big stage, contributed to Sarries' sense of well-being during the half-time break. Lynagh, with a glorious drop goal and Sella with a peach of a pass to set up an improbable try for Ryan Constable, highlighted the difference in class between the sides. When Gavin Johnson, the Saracens full-back, held on to a loose pass from Tony Diprose to score the second try, the spirit as well as the energy drained from Wasps.
At no time were Wasps able to mount a serious challenge. From the start they were strangely sluggish, their back row incapable of generating enough momentum to trouble a defence which throughout the season has provided the platform for Saracens' success. It would have taken imagination and invention way beyond anything Wasps produced to unhinge the well-drilled ranks of Saracens and, a five-minute spell in the second half apart, they were never seriously inconvenienced.
Wasps' problems were not confined to their shortage of attacking ideas. They were underpowered in the scrummage and at times overpowered by their opponents in the line-out with Danny Grewcock, a rapidly maturing lock, and Paddy Johns having their opposite numbers at full stretch.
The longer the game went on the more obvious it became that Lawrence Dallaglio has had a surfeit of rugby and if he goes to the southern hemisphere this summer it should only be in a non-playing capacity although he would probably be better advised to take a complete break from the game. He contributed nobly in the line-out. But in his natural habitat around the fringes of the setpiece his customary dynamism was greatly missed.
Contrast this with the overbrimming exuberance of Ben Sturnham whose mighty charges tore chunks out of the Wasps defence. It was the young flanker who set up Grewcock's try after Johnson's 70-yard kick had set up a good attacking position close to the Wasps line. Wasps compounded their problems by throwing in crooked and it was from the resulting scrummage that Sturnham propelled himself into the opposition midfield. Kyran Bracken jinked inside from the ruck and Grewcock was there to stretch over for the try.
In truth, the game had already been won by that time. With a stream of wickedly placed crossfield kicks into the corners Lynagh had stretched the portly Gareth Rees to the limit of his endurance. Yet Lynagh never once missed an opportunity to bring his backs into the action. Johnson, a constant menace running from deep positions, broke through to send Sella twisting and turning between Paul Volley and Mike Friday for the first of Saracens' six tries. Then, immediately after Rees had kicked a penalty for Wasps, the maestro Lynagh dropped the crispest of goals from ball pilfered on the ground by Diprose. It was then Sella's turn to display his virtuosity. Against the seemingly impossible odds of two versus four he somehow contrived to commit a couple of Wasps defenders before floating a precise pass to Constable who left his opposite number Laurence Scrase for dead on his way into the right-hand corner.
After that, perhaps it was all a bit too easy for Saracens and when, eight minutes into the second half, Lynagh with another deft touch had placed a grubber kick into Steve Ravencroft's path for the centre to score, Saracens took their foot off the pedal. Even against a side as tired and as feckless as Wasps, this was a crass mistake.
First, Volley plunged over from a line-out won by Dallaglio and then, two minutes later, Shane Roiser broke clean through to score close enough to the posts for Rees to be able to kick the conversion with his eyes shut. Perhaps that is what he did because he missed the kick which, in the general scheme of things, was probably not that important. But if this had been a Wasps comeback of genuine substance rather than a temporary glitch in Saracens' well-oiled machine then it could have been significant.
As it turned out, Sarries could afford the luxury of missing two glorious scoring opportunities, both of which fell to Richard Wallace - an early tactical substitution for Brendon Daniel on the left wing. Wallace failed to take both of them for the simple reason that he was not fast enough, which made the decision to replace the blisteringly quick Daniel all the harder to fathom. It was left to the massively reliable Bracken to finish Wasps off. He swooped on to Buster White's knock-on and in an arcing run crossed in the corner. Lynagh, for good measure, converted from the touchline.
It was perhaps right and fitting that Wallace should at last score. He had most of his team to thank for setting him up and, in particular, the inestimable Sella whose legs, although no longer the magnificently tuned pistons of old, had just enough juice to get him through the front line of the Wasps defence.
He could not have asked for a better occasion to make his grand farewell to big-time rugby and, along with Lynagh, he will be sadly missed.
Wasps: G Rees; S Roiser, M Denney, R Henderson, L Scrase (P Sampson, 52); A King (P Sampson, 22-24), M Friday (A Gomarsall, 74); D Molloy (A Black, 74), S Mitchell (T Leota, 55), W Green, M Weedon (A Reed, 74), S Shaw, J Worsley (M White, 54), P Volley, L Dallaglio (capt).
Saracens: G Johnson; B Daniel (R Wallace, 27), P Sella (M Singer, 79), S Ravenscroft, R Constable; M Lynagh, K Bracken (M Olsen, 79); R Grau (A Olver, 79), G Chuter (G Botterman, 76), P Wallace, P Johns, D Grewcock, B Sturnham, F Pienaar (A Bennett, 27-33), T Diprose (capt).
Referee: C White (RFU).Reuse content