Clermont Auvergne 37 London Wasps 27: Ledesma's leadership keeps Clermont alive in pool of death

Haskell a hit again but Argentina hooker helps to bring down the champions
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The Independent Online

They gave the man-of-the-match award to the wrong man. Just before the finish of this huge match in Pool Five which has been called the pool of death James Haskell was given the accolade. It was not a popular choice for a partisan home crowd. After all, Clermont Auvergne were leading the current champions of Europe, had answered every rugged tactic by Wasps with an equally uncompromising response and would rightly have felt robbed if victory had been snatched away.

As the visitors drove forward again, the ball popped loose from a ruck and Mario Ledesma pounced. The Argentina hooker had been everywhere, leading the charge and settling again a battle with Raphaël Ibanez, whom he had bettered twice at the World Cup.

After a three-stride gallop, Ledesma passed to Brock James who had his captain, Aurlien Rougerie, outside him to drive the final nail into Wasps' coffin. Ledesma was the true man of the match, but he may count himself lucky that his first-half try in the corner was awarded after the video referee, David McHugh, took an age to make, according to the Wasps coach Shaun Edwards, the wrong decision.

"We strongly disagree that that was a try," Edwards said, "but you have to abide by the official's judgment."

"We had hoped we could take two points away from this game, so to end with none is very disappointing," added Ian McGeechan, the Wasps director of rugby.

Ledesma was one of many who played with such commitment that a bone-jarring first half belonged to the home side. Clermont bundled Wasps out of any semblance of rhythm or structure. Edwards said his side had started slowly and had ended by giving away too many penalties, but there can be no doubt that this was a well-deserved win for a side lying second in the French championship.

James had his kicking boots on, landing six penalties and two conversions Danny Cipriani kept Wasps in the hunt and such was the ferocity that there were often bodies strewn left, right and centre.

The wing Julien Malzieu scored the first of Clermont's tries, Haskell picking up the first of a brace to keep the half-time deficit down to 20-10. Wasps were better in the second half but they failed to profit despite being briefly ahead. The stretch from a five-point deficit and a losing bonus point to 10 and none at the end was particularly hard to swallow.

Clermont Auvergne: A Floch (A King, 57); A Rougerie (capt), M Joubert, G Canale (B Baby, 32), J Malzieu; B James, P Mignoni; L Emmanuelli (T Domingo, 58), M Ledesma, M Scelzo, J Cudmore (C Samson, 61), T Privat (M Lozupone, 78), J Bonnaire, E Vermuelen, S Broomhall (A Audebert, 34).

London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey (J Lewsey, 59), F Waters, R Flutey, T Voyce; D Cipriani, E Reddan (S Amor, 79); T Payne, R Ibanez, P Vickery, S Shaw, G Skivington, J Hart (T Rees, 52), L Dallaglio (capt), J Haskell.

Referee: A Lewis (Wales).