Rugby Union: Wasps survive the Irish bluster

London Irish 20 Wasps 22
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The Independent Online
You could be forgiven for thinking that big Willie Anderson was some kind of business guru. He's got all the jargon, so when he took over at London Irish last Thursday, he sat the players down and set "performance targets" and "nine objectives". He had them "concoct a code of conduct".

"It's just like ICI," the new director of rugby said after yesterday's Courage League nail-biter. "You have to have managers; you have to have mentors; you have to have a plan."

It's just that yesterday's strategy looked suspiciously like the age- old Irish game plan: "Hit the rucks hard; tackle everything that moves, preferably an opponent; run the impossible; kick and chase."

And it was very nearly extremely effective. Only a failed conversion of a last-moment try denied London Irish a draw against the run of play.

Not that Wasps should ever have let it get that far. The fancied north London side had run in three tries in the first half.

Only in the last quarter did London Irish buck themselves up. The Ireland outside-half, David Humphreys, had plugged away with four penalties and a drop goal to keep the gap bridgeable. The pack then moved into overdrive.

The London Irish scrum-half, Peter Richards, tapped a penalty quickly and darted over. Humphreys missed the crucial conversion, his only foot fault of the afternoon.

Ultimately, Irish fire could not burn out the superior skill of Wasps. The back-row of Lawrence Dallaglio, Buster White and Chris Sheasby refused to melt away. Jon Ufton, at full-back, was impressive in attack and defence. His few flaws only emerged under intense pressure at the end when he fluffed two kickable penalties which would have added to the couple of successful conversions and a penalty he had kicked.

In the backs Wasps had class enough to conjure two fine tries, one from Shane Roiser on the left wing, the other from Paul Sampson on the right. The third try was scored by the ever-present Dallaglio, picking up a carelessly tapped London Irish ball at the back of a line-out.

The only question mark was over commitment. The view coming from within the Wasps camp after yesterday's close shave was that minds were on other things, like international commitments.

Anderson has started infusing London Irish with a defiant attitude. "Objective number one", he has told his new charges, is to stay in Division One. The will is certainly there - but will it be enough?

London Irish: C O'Shea; D Charles, R Henderson, J Bishop, N Woods; D Humphreys, P Richards; L Mooney, R Kellam, G Halpin (capt), G Davidson, M O'Kelly, K O'Connell, V. Costello, K Dawson.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Sampson, N Greenstock, V Tuigamala, S Roiser; A King, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, S Mitchell, W Green, D Cronin, A Reed, L Dallaglio (capt), C Sheasby, M White.

Referee: G Hughes (Manchester).