Rugby Union: Wasps in stylish sign-off

Harlequins 22 Wasps 42
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The Independent Online
As derbies go, this was close to classic status. There were some great gallops and some unbridled free-flowing rugby as the Courage League champions, Wasps, finished their season on a high note. Harlequins were not disgraced either.

Injuries had forced some swinging changes. Will Carling dropped out late yesterday morning with knee trouble and they had to blood a youngster at scrum-half because of their casualties. Richard Sharples covered himself in glory and may not have got on to the score-sheet, but displayed enough skill in only his second league appearance to suggest he has the class to go all the way.

It must have been a particularly satisfying day for the Wasps No 8 Chris Sheasby. He left Quins last year and returned yesterday as a member of the championship-winning side. The victory was the icing on his personal cake. And even when the champions were trailing early on in this match, they did not give the impression they would allow Harlequins the distinction of becoming the only side to complete the double over them.

Enterprise runs through the side from administration to players, from full-back to prop, and the devastating one-two they dealt the hosts just after half-time illustrated that perfectly.

Lawrence Dallaglio, the Wasps captain, broke down the left, the ball was moved inside and suddenly the Ireland centre Rob Henderson burst out of the melee and charged through the Quins ranks, throwing off tackles with a shrug of his powerful shoulders. He ran right then angled left and plunged over for a try converted by Gareth Rees.

Sixty seconds later and another sucker-punch when the flanker Buster White exploded into space, the prop Will Green muscled his way up in support and took the ball on for the try. It threatened to become a rout when the Wasps lock Matt Greenwood broke clear in the 52nd minute and drew the cover like a centre before sending a perfectly weighted pass to Rees, who had no trouble crossing for the try - converting it himself.

And before all this Harlequins had nosed in front thanks to a gift of a try for Gareth Allison when the Wasps hooker Simon Mitchell threw the ball straight to the tall flanker, who caught it cleanly and fell over the line. That was converted by Thierry Lacroix, to go with his earlier penalty. But the French kicking ace was limping and soon after the restart he handed the kicking over to Mike Corcoran before hobbling out.

And there was plenty of that left. Anyone who thought Quins' new-found steely resolve had rusted were made to think again. Some sterling work from the pack which put Wasps under pressure evolved into a series of penalties and eventually one of their other French imports, the ubiquitous Laurent Cabannes, crashed through for a try which Corcoran converted.

But Wasps are not champions for nothing. A string of replacements, some movement into the Quins half and in range of the posts, it did not take long before Quins infringed and the boot of Rees opened the gap again. By rights that should have finished things off, but London pride hung on this match.

Jason Keyter kept Harlequins in the hunt, although his 77th-minute try was not converted by Corcoran. At that point, the lethal finishing power of the Scotland wing Logan came to bear. He ran in for his second try in the final minute and Wasps rubbed salt into Quins injury-time efforts when Henderson was sent clear for his second try.

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, J Keyter, T Lacroix (R Davies, 54), M Corcoran; P Challinor, R Sharples; L Benezech (A Mullins, 74), T Billups, J Leonard (capt), Gareth Llewellyn, L Gross, G Allison (P Delaney, 75), B Davison (S Owen, 57), L Cabannes.

Wasps: J Ufton; S Roiser, N Greenstock, R Henderson, K Logan; G Rees, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, S Mitchell (K Dunn, 68), W Green, M Greenwood, A Reed, L Dallaglio (capt), C Sheasby (P Scrivener, 54), M White (D Cronin, 70).

Referee: C White (Cheltenham)