RUGBY UNION: Wasps give French a lesson in higher arts

Wasps 37 Bourgoin 23
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The Independent Online
BOURGOIN WERE last year's European Shield finalists. But having made the step up to the higher examination presented by the Heineken Cup, the French side have been struggling to assert themselves in Pool Three of the competition. It got no easier for them yesterday.

Wasps entered the match looking to leap-frog Llanelli at the top, while Bourgoin were simply trying to get on level terms with the two British clubs. They failed. Despite a late French flurry, Wasps had proved superior up front, sharper behind the scrum and, despite conceding a bucketload of penalties in the final quarter, they never lost their nerve.

The French may have possessed pace in the backs but it was Wasps who had the cunning running, with lines that opened up their opponents' defence at regular intervals and an all-round scorer in Kenny Logan, whose 20 points included a try, three penalties and three conversions.

Wasps' threequarters were forever hacking bits out of the French cover and in the close encounters there was always a back-row man on call. Joe Worsley's try early in the second half illustrated that perfectly, the flanker knifing through after the backs had prodded, probed and pulled the Bourgoin defence this way and that trying to create the opening.

Bourgoin's problems began early on when they fell offside well within Logan's range, and when the Scotland wing tore away for the line three minutes later, released by his captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, it began to look like one-way traffic.

Jon Ufton, the full-back, converted the try before Logan added a second penalty, and within a quarter of an hour Bourgoin were rattled and looking shaky. They rallied though, Stephane Glas opening up a corridor and darting through, while Mark McKenzie knocked over the simple conversion.

Back came Wasps, landing a sucker punch at a ruck when their scrum-half, Martyn Wood, jinked through and touched down. This time Logan converted. But Bourgoin were a slippery outfit and in McKenzie, a Scotland A player who has previously played for Stirling County and Edinburgh Reivers, they had an equally good kicker. His first two penalties had pulled the French to within grasping distance of Wasps by half-time.

After Worsley's 44th-minute try, which Logan converted, the Bourgoin pack asserted themselves again and took play back upfield and, suddenly finding themselves under pressure, Wasps conceded a hatful of penalties. For the first few Bourgoin opted each time to look for a possible try from the line-out, but on no occasion were they able to use the ball - they either found themselves beaten back by sound defence, or, on another occasion the throw was not straight. Finally they went for the points, when Wasps were yet again penalised for offside within their 22, and McKenzie knocked over his third penalty.

And the penalties kept coming. Never could one side - Wasps - have been offside so often, but that was how the referee, Charles Muir, saw it. Still they survived, their defence withstanding whatever the French threw at it. Josh Lewsey's injury-time try, when he intercepted a cross- kick by McKenzie practically on the Wasps line before running the length of the pitch, was countered by Bourgoin's New Zealand-born full-back, Glenn Davis, whose try crowned an entertaining afternoon.

Wasps: Tries Logan, Wood, Worsley, Lewsey; Conversions Ufton, Logan 3; Penalties Logan 3.

Bourgoin: Tries Glas, Davis; Conversions McKenzie 2; Penalties McKenzie 3.

Wasps: J Ufton; J Lewsey, F Waters, M Denney, K Logan; A King, M Wood; D Molloy, T Leota (D Macer, 18-25), W Green, A Reed (M Weedon, 79), S Shaw, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener, J Worsley.

Bourgoin: G Davis; L Leflamand, J McLaren, S Glas, L Gioliti; M Mckenzie, A Nicoud; O Milloud, J-F Tordo (J Martin-Culet, 61), P Peyron, R Mohr, L Nallet, A Chazalet (capt), P Raschi, S Chabal (S Fischer, 73).

Referee: C Muir (Scotland).