Danny Cipriani's underwhelming season may yet finish on an overwhelming high after his performance in Wasps' defeat at Saracens yesterday drew praise from Ian McGeechan, who doubles up as Wasps' director of rugby and the head coach of the Lions for their summer tour to South Africa.
The Wasps No 10 was overlooked by England throughout the Six Nations, but a Lions place is not out of reach if he continues to improve. "We've got to see a bit more from Danny, but that was the best I have seen him play since he came back from injury," said McGeechan. "I thought that was pretty close to where he was last year, before he got injured and I can't give him any higher praise than that. I think he had a confidence today that he has maybe not had. He took some hard tackles, but that was comfortably his best game. He just needs to keep going like that."
That was just about the only plus point for McGeechan from yesterday's game. He announced last night that he is to submit a formal complaint over what he feels is an abuse of the substitution laws after watching his team lose yet another game in the dying minutes which effectively ended their chance of a top-four finish and leaves their hopes of Heineken Cup participation next year hanging by a thread.
It is understood that McGeechan took exception to the 66th minute reinstatement of Saracens tighthead prop Cencus Johnston after he had originally been replaced in the 31st minute.
McGeechan said: "I'm going to put a report in, but not about the referee. We have no problems with the referee. I'm just fed up with substitutions that shouldn't happen. I am not going to say what will be in my report, it will be confidential to me as to what I put in." Richie Graham, Saracens acting director of rugby, defended his action by saying: "We made a substitution 30 minutes into the game, I don't believe it is an issue. There is no abuse of the laws."
Overall, defeat can be put down to Wasps' collective inability this season to finish off sides when they have the possession, position and time to do so. At Vicarage Road yesterday they lacked the clinical finishing that had seen them run in 63 tries on their way to the Guinness Premiership title. Thus far this year they have managed just 23 tries, and while some of that shortfall may be as a result of the Experimental Law Variations, some blame has to fall on the shoulders of the players. Cipriani kept Wasps in touch with three penalties and Tom Voyce's 77th-minute try looked to have sealed Saracens' fate, but the visitors were slack in allowing their opponents to come back with a winning try three minutes later.
Saracens: Try: Leonelli; Conversion: Jackson; Penalties: Jackson 4.
Wasps: Try: Voyce; Penalties: Cipriani 3.
Saracens: C Wyles; F Leonelli, K Ratuvou (B Jacobs, 41), B Barritt (G Ross, 78), R Penney; G Jackson, J Marshall; M Aguero (T Mercey, 66), F Ongaro, C Johnston (T Mercey, 31-66), T Ryder (D Seymour, 50), S Borthwick (capt), C Jack, W van Heerden, B Skirving (J Melck, 68).
Wasps: M van Gisbergen (L Mitchell, 41-50); T Voyce, D Waldouck, R Flutey, J Lewsey; D Cipriani, J Simpson (M Robinson, 77); C Beech, R Webber, P Barnard (T Payne, 13) , S Shaw (R Birkett, 41), G Skivington, J Haskell, T Rees (capt), D Leo (M Veale, 52).
Referee: A Small (Beds)