The rugby may have been purely incidental throughout a controversial London derby but Wasps and the Exiles served up some thunderous entertainment in a match of unremitting physical commitment and, let us admit it, unrestrained violence. Buster White and Ken O'Connell indulged in the sort of running battle that persuaded the Marquis of Queensberry to take an interest in sport and there was also some handy bare-knuckle stuff from Jeremy Davidson, the Irish lock who has one foot on the Lions' plane to South Africa. Perhaps he was just warming up for the summer.
In the midst of it all, Wasps, the league leaders, flirted dangerously with what would have been a cataclysmic defeat before grinding out a victory on the back of two penalty tries awarded by Doug Chapman, a bemused and bewildered referee.
The first resulted from the umpteenth offside tackle on Andy Gomarsall as the hosts mounted an early assault on the Irish line, the second from a deliberate kick-through at a five-metre scrum as the Exiles' set-piece was sent into rapid reverse gear. Gareth Rees converted both and added three penalties, Alex King dropped a left-footed goal from close range and Nick Greenstock wrapped things up in the fifth minute of injury time by sliding over in the right corner.
But it was a whole lot closer than the final scoreline suggested. The visitors, prime candidates for relegation, scored two tries of their own, an absolute beauty from Paul Flood just past the half-hour and a more workmanlike muscle job from Gabriel Fulcher three minutes into the second period.
Davidson was an inspiration, O'Connell was another potent force, as was Richard Yeabsley, his back-row partner, but the Exiles' pack as a whole spent all night on the wrong side of Mr Chapman and, as a consequence, the crucial penalty count went 4-1 against them.
Wasps: Tries Penalty tries (2), Greenstock; Cons Rees (2); Pens: Rees (3); Drop-goal: King. London Irish: Tries Flood, Fulcher; Con O'Shea; Pens O'Shea (2).
Wasps: G Rees; S Roiser (J Ufton, 70) , N Greenstock, R Henderson, K Logan; A King, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, S Mitchell, W Green, M Greenwood, A Reed, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener, M White (P Volley, 80).
London Irish: C O'Shea; J Bishop (A Allen, 58), N Burrows, P Flood, R Hennessy; S Burns, N Hogan; J Fitzpatrick, A Redmond, G Halpin (capt), G Fulcher, J Davidson, K O'Connell, R Yeabsley, C Bird.
Referee: D Chapman (Scunthorpe).Reuse content