Castres 13 Wasps 16: Dallaglio delighted with home tie after Wasps edge thriller

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The Independent Online

Smiles all round. The chief executive was happy, the director of rugby was happy and the captain was happy after Wasps secured a home quarter-final in the Heineken Cup. It was a day to remember for all connected with the Guinness Premiership side and even Bernard Laporte, the head coach of France, made a point of going to the Wasps dressing room to congratulate the man of the match - the France hooker and captain, Rafael Ibañez.

While the Wasps stand-off Alex King, still a spoiler rather than a nailer of tackles, had said it was a defining day in Wasps' season, Laurence Dallaglio had referred to the Pool One decider as a matter of life or death. After an interruption of "Lol, come and say hello to your mother", the Wasps captain returned to say: "We are moving towards the form which won us the cup in 2004. The next three rounds of this competition are as big as any rugby you will play."

A smiling Wasps chief executive, Chris Wright, looked forward to a lucrative home tie in the last eight, which takes place at the end of March and may require a change of home-ground advantage if the club cannot find space for enough people at Adams Park in High Wycombe.

Dallaglio said that this kind of victory had more value than winning for England, and a more than happy Ian McGeechan said he thought Dallaglio was playing better than ever, while acknowledging the huge defensive effort put in by the former England captain's back-row colleagues, young Tom Rees and the hugely influential Joe Worsley. Such a mix of youthful talent and gnarly experience was a telling factor in the victory, though Wasps are not yet quite back in their pomp. The coaching team, with the obvious exception of the less than hirsute Shaun Edwards, were tearing their hair out at some slow reactions.

Wasps were required to hold on for the final quarter of an hour. That they did so with consummate time-consuming tactics of picking and driving while maintaining the discipline of avoiding penalties spoke volumes, though incensed home supporters were sure they deserved a penalty try for a collapsed scrum. By the end nearly everyone was dead on their feet.

Earlier opportunities to put the game beyond Castres' reach had been missed, not least when on one of two breakaways it was almost more difficult not to score a try than fail. The young full-back Daniel Cipriani held on too long and was toppled. On the other occasion, however, the winger Tom Voyce broke free to score what turned out to be a decisive five points, turned into seven by King.

In a game as tight as three points - only King's drop goal divided the sides - the loss of Castres' Kiwi kicker Cameron McIntyre, taking over from the normal first-choice Romain Teulet, who was struck down with a stomach bug, was vital. McIntyre was carried off just before half-time with a sprained right ankle, robbing the home side of their chief playmaker.

Wasps, lying third in the Premiership table, are flying high despite some patchy performances, especially away from home, a weakness which had been mirrored in Europe before this game.

Castres are 11th in the French Top 14, a competition which is apparently so prestigious that France's clubs are going to boycott next year's Heineken Cup because it threatens to undermine the importance of their domestic championship.

On the evidence of this Saturday afternoon in a small town in the Tarn region, however, there is not much of a gap between the top of one table and the bottom of another, and both sets of supporters love their cross-border competition.

Castres: Try Pape; Conversion Ross; Penalties McIntyre 2. Wasps: Try Voyce; Conversion King; Penalties King 2; Drop goal King.

Castres: F Cermeno (F Carballo, 77); L Milford, S Kefu, P Christophers, J-B Peyras-Loustalet; C McIntyre (G Ross, 39), C Laussucq; C Hoeft, A Giorgadze (R Terrain, 48), D Saayman (Giorgadze, 80), P Pape, L Nallet (capt), G Vosloo, P Tabacco (R Capo Ortega, 63), A Manta (A Bias, 44).

Wasps: D Cipriani; J Lewsey, F Waters, D Waldouck, T Voyce; A King, E Reddan; T Payne, R Ibañez, P Vickery, S Shaw (M Purdey, 59), T Palmer, J Worsley, T Rees (D Leo, 59), L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

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