Wasps may not have travelled to Welford Road in expectation of a win – no one has managed it in eight league matches this season – but the High Wycombeites were able to hold their heads high a few days after the sacking of their director of rugby, Tony Hanks, by holding Leicester to two tries.
Shaun Edwards, the Wasps head coach who declared himself uninterested in either the interim director of rugby role planned by his club or a longer-term promotion, came dressed in his severest suit: think Don Corleone with a yellow-and-black tie. He demanded a show of nerve from his side and some unfamiliar names – Marty Veale, Joe Launchbury, Tom Lindsay and James Cannon are not yet known much beyond their own front rooms – gave a defensive performance that Edwards was happy to hang his Homburg on.
They certainly made an impression on Richard Cockerill, Leicester's DoR. "They d'd up really well," he said, several times. "They came and d'd up and kicked the ball away and d'd up and they were hard to break down," and "we found it hard against a pretty belligerent team that were d'd up and d'd up really well and were pretty negative all round, to be fair", and "they d'd up well and they worked hard – but if you want to give four points for grit and determination, we got it", and "it was a little bit frustrating but you've got to give them credit for d'ing up so well".
The inference, if not the coach-speak, was clear. Edwards has built his reputation on defence. But the empty seat in the grandstand next to forwards' coach Trevor Woodman needs to be filled quickly by someone with a strategic view of recruitment and an all-round game. The club have ruled out Lawrence Dallaglio, a board member and former captain, taking a role in the near future. A source close to another ex-skipper, Dean Ryan, suggested he would be sticking to his broadcasting work.
The Tigers dominated, but not absolutely. When a scrum on Wasps' line five minutes before half-time was wheeled and the home back row lost their footing, the ball came out on the visitors' side. Welford Road went deathly quiet: the sound of 21,000 spectators "p'd off", as Cockerill might have put it. Otherwise, there were some unforced errors by Dave Walder at fly-half for Wasps – though he also kicked four penalty goals – and two tries for Leicester, whose 19-year-old centre Manu Tuilagi had the raw muscle and occasional flourish of a live England prospect. Jeremy Staunton plucked an interception from Walder's miss-pass for the first try in the 11th minute and Steve Mafi galloped through a Wasps line that was "d'd up" in expectation of a pass outside to Alesana Tuilagi.
Tom Croft, the returning England flanker, played his first 25 minutes in 10 weeks since fracturing a shoulder blade. He said he expected to stay with Leicester for the next fortnight which suggested his best chance of a Test recall would be for the matches with Scotland and Ireland in March.
Leicester: Tries Staunton, Mafi; Conversion Staunton; Penalties Staunton 3.Wasps: Penalties Walder 4.
Leicester Tigers: S Hamilton; H Agulla, M Tuilagi, A Allen, A Tuilagi; J Staunton, J Grindal; B Stankovich (M Ayerza, 51), G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni, S Mafi, G Skivington, C Newby (capt; T Croft, 56), B Woods, T Waldrom.
London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; R Haughton, D Waldouck, R Flutey, B Jacobs; D Walder, N Berry (J Simpson, 61); T Payne, T Lindsay (J Ward, 70), B Broster, M Veale, R Birkett (capt), J Launchbury, S Betsen, J Worsley (J Cannon, 36).
Referee: A Small (London).Reuse content