Betsen dominates in Wasps' resurgence

Wasps 24 Harlequins 18
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The Independent Online

Wasps dragged themselves clear of the Premiership basement after a gruelling London derby against Harlequins in front of their first 10,000 sell-out of the season at Adams Park yesterday.

Wasps produced their best 40 minutes of the season in the first half, then defended superbly as Harlequins, who picked up a losing bonus point, threw everything at them in an intense second half. It was only Wasps' second home victory of the season in the Premiership and owed much to a magnificent forward performance.

Their plans had been disrupted when England winger Paul Sackey was withdrawn from the starting line-up with an ankle problem. Wasps felt that Sackey was fit enough to play but Mike Bundy, the England team doctor, ruled him out on Saturday after a fitness test. Ian McGeechan, the club's director of rugby, said that he would be having talks with the England coach Martin Johnson about the matter.

There was more bad news of another Wasps' England player. Lock Tom Palmer sees a specialist today for an assessment of a shoulder injury and faces the possibility of an operation. Wasps also finished without England flanker Tom Rees, who left the field after four minutes with an injured left knee, while Quins lost their England back-row forward Nick Easter to a back spasm.

Although they had begun the match in 10th position, four places below their opponents, Wasps outplayed sixth-placed Harlequins quite comprehensively. The visitors were guilty of careless handling, and silly errors. Even when they did get any momentum going more often than not they ran up against the reinforced brick wall of the Wasps back row.

Serge Betsen was awesome and was well supported by back-row colleagues Daniel Leo and England's James Haskell. But the trio also gave Wasps plenty of energy. Indeed it was Haskell's surge through some half-hearted Quins' resistance which led indirectly to Wasps second try, scored by novice winger Chris Bishay, a product of the Wasps academy.

As the ball was recycled, a scintillating run by Dominic Waldouck onto Danny Cipriani's left shoulder saw the England fly-half flick a quick pass to the centre, the ball went back to Cipriani who sent another rapid ball to Bishay who squeezed in at the right-hand corner.

Wasps were already one try to the good when Harlequins infringed at a scrum one time too many and referee Sean Davey awarded the home team a penalty try, which was converted by Cipriani, who had already landed three penalty goals by that point.

All Harlequins had to their name was a solitary Nick Evans penalty. But they emerged for the second half with more purpose and organisation. Wasps conceded a penalty try of their own, following a second instance of Cipriani having a kick charged down – a recurrence of his problem for England in the autumn. Evans' conversion took them into double figures.

Then came a fine piece of play by England scrum-half Danny Care, who found a gap at a line-out. He outstripped the immediate cover, chipped over Riki Flutey and raced over for a magnificent try. The two teams exchanged a further penalty apiece, but there was no way Wasps were going to let Quins steal in for a last-gasp win.

Wasps: Tries penalty, Bishay; Conversion Cipriani; Penalties Cipriani 3, Walder. Harlequins: Tries penalty, Care; Conversion N Evans; Penalty N Evans.

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; C Bishay, D Waldouck, R Flutey, T Voyce; D Cipriani (D Walder, 69), E Reddan; T French, R Webber (J Ward, 65), P Vickery (capt), S Shaw, G Skivington (T Rees, 71-75; C Beech, 75), D Leo (R Birkett, 57), S Betsen, J Haskell.

Harlequins: M Brown; T Williams, G Tiesi, J Turner-Hall (C Malone, 46), U Monye (De Wet Barry, 40+7); N Evans, D Care; A Croall, C Brooker, M Ross, J Percival (J Evans, 59), G Robson, C Robshaw (C Jones, 40+4-43), W Skinner (capt), N Easter (T Guest, 21).

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).