Faultless Jones illuminates brighter days for Wasps

London Wasps 43 London Irish 14: New owners bask in first win but struggling Irish 'cop it and soldier on'

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The Independent Online

All of a sudden the sun is shining on London Wasps. After a long 2011-12 season of discontent, the future of the former European champions seems secure, they have recorded their first victory of this Aviva Premiership season and one of their newest signings, Stephen Jones, marked his debut yesterday with 23 points and not a single missed kick.

If the new consortium who took over the club last week wanted a statement from their employees, they received it. Tom Varndell's second try, on the stroke of time, earned the bonus point that Mark Rigby, the Wasps chairman, described as the "glace cherry on the top" on his week.

There have been too many sleepless nights recently for Rigby, who has had constantly to stave off questions from concerned members about when they could believe their club had a future in England's top flight. "Ultimately I always believed the strength of the brand, the tradition, woud ensure a deal was done," the former flanker said.

"Now we need to close the trading deficit, work hard to achieve a sustainable business. We have a small group of people who have belief and faith in the future of that business." In due course Wasps will disclose the identities of their new owners but Rigby acknowledged that they have been "haemorraging" money - some £2m a season in recent years - and have been kept afloat only by the patience of Steve Hayes, the former owner.

They have no more than 3,000 season-ticket holders and yesterday's crowd was distinctly unimpressive, even allowing for the fact that neither club had won in the opening fortnight of the season. But the second-half display, which brought 24 points in the final 14 minutes, will go a long way towards bringing back Wasps's floating voters.

If only London Irish could say the same. They led at the interval and looked likely to break their own duck but, forty minutes later, had suffered their third successive 40-point defeat. "We have a young squad, we have to cop it and soldier on," Brian Smith, the director of rugby, said.

The concession of a try to Joe Simpson marked the turning point. Up to then, much of the rugby had been scruffy, mistakes in basics of the game abounding, but when Wasps stepped up their efficiency at the breakdown, their opponents could not respond. When Simpson first initiated then finished off his club's second try, the Exiles were left chasing the game and were found wanting.

The hopes built on a neat try scored in the first half by Marlon Yarde had long since evaporated, a trail of replacements did not help. Shane Geraghty, once an England aspirant, appeared briefly before the interval as a replacement but sustained a blow to the head which ensured he could not be given the game time he needs and the Irish could offer no-one with the bruising dynamism of the Wasps recruit from South Africa, Ashley Johnson.

A fourth penalty by Jones, the Wales centurion, at the start of the second half pushed Wasps noses back ahead and the intervention in midfield of Christian Wade (a peripheral figure in the first half) helped make a try for Varndell. Steve Shingler's goal-kicking kept the Irish in touch until Simpson, revelling in the momentum of his forwards, made his intervention which knocked the visitors sideways.

It is easy to forget that Simpson was England's third-choice scrum half at last year's World Cup and he seems to be rediscovering his confidence. His covering and kicking were of huge benefit to his colleagues and with Jones bringing direction, Wasps found themselves playing the game in the right areas of the pitch.

Zak Taulafo, the prop who scored three tries in an A league game earlier in the week, added another from a driving maul and the coup de grace was something to behold. The Irish, making ground deep in the opposing 22, were turned over and Simpson jinked his way into space before giving Varndell a run-in from 50 metres. "I hope now we can plan a way forward, on and off the field," David Young, the Wasps director of rugby, said afterwards.


London Wasps: H Southwell (captain); T Varndell, E Daly, A Masi, C Wade; S Jones, J Simpson; T Payne, R Thomas (T Lindsay, 22-30, 45), F Staibano (Z Taulafo, 41), T Palmer, M Wentzel, J Launchbury (J Haskell, 63), A Johnson (B Vunipola, 65), J Poff.

London Irish: T Homer; T Ojo, J Joseph, S Tagicakibau, M Yarde; S Shingler (S Geraghty, 22-27), T O'Leary (J Moates, 35-41); M Lahiff (H Aulika, 68), S Lawson, L Halavatau (J Ryan, 10), G Skivington (K Low, 67), B Evans, D Danaher (captain), J Fisher (A Gray, 19-22, 67), O Treviranus.