Style goes out of the window as the Premiership comes down to a qualifying competition: those who make the play-off places – on the evidence of yesterday in Reading, neither of these two teams – or a Heineken Cup place, and those avoiding relegation.
By virtue of a win bolstered by 20 points from the boot of Tom Homer, London Irish moved to fifth and should qualify for Europe, but it is a long way from the domestic hopes fired by their outstanding start to this season. As for Wasps, their season now stands or falls by success in the Amlin Challenge Cup, the second-tier European tournament in which they play a quarter-final with Harlequins on Friday.
Wasps are but a shadow of the side that once bestrode Europe. Shattered by injuries (Dominic Waldouck, the unlucky centre, will not play again this season after snapping his left Achilles tendon yesterday), they struggle to score tries, so two in the first 15 minutes against the Irish represented a minor triumph, save for the fact that they promptly lost their way to the line for the rest of the game.
"There was too much desperation to try something with every single play," Leon Holden, the acting head coach, said, though you would not fault the likes of Joe Simpson and Andy Powell for their efforts to make something, anything, happen. But they were turned over or penalised too frequently at the breakdown and allowed Homer to guide the Irish back from a 12-3 deficit.
There was a greater sense of adventure from the home side, though almost as much imprecision as Wasps. Once Delon Armitage kicked his side from one 22 to the other, the Irish won a line-out six metres from the try-line and promptly lost possession, but Homer's five first-half kicks erased the memory of early defensive errors.
Waldouck's diagonal kick was kept in play by David Lemi, and Riki Flutey collected the bounce for Wasps' first try. The second came after Christian Wade was sprung through midfield by a suspiciously forward-looking pass from David Walder, and Rob Webber plunged over two phases later. But with a stream of offences in the loose and at set scrums, neither side could develop continuity. Homer was narrowly wide with a penalty from 58 metres but found the mark from 40 metres closer before good approach work from Topsy Ojo and Daniel Bowden created the position from which David Paice scored the only Irish try.
Scorers: London Irish: Try Paice. Conversion Homer. Penalties Homer 6. Wasps: Tries Flutey, Webber. Conversion Walder.
London Irish D Armitage; T Ojo, E Seveali'i (R Lamb, 50), S Mapusua, T Homer; D Bowden (A Thompstone, 77), P Hodgson (D Allinson, 72); C Dermody (capt; A Corbisiero, 50), J Buckland (D Paice, 45), F Rautenbach (P Ion, 57), G Johnson (sin bin 80), J Gibson (R Thorpe, 66), S Armitage, G Stowers.
Wasps M van Gisbergen; C Wade, D Waldouck (J Lewsey, 29), R Flutey, D Lemi; D Walder, J Simpson (N Berry, 66); T Payne (C Beech, 57), R Webber (T Lindsay, 62), Z Taulafo (B Broster, 57), S Shaw (J Launchbury, 57), M Veale, J Hart (capt; S Betsen, 72), D Ward-Smith, A Powell.
Referee C White (Gloucestershire).Reuse content