Leicester bounce back from Toulon disappointment to surge into semi-finals again

Leicester 35 Wasps 16

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The Independent Online

A long weekend in Southern France is not Richard Cockerill's idea of preparation. Add some bone crunching encounters with Bakkies Botha and tackling practice with Mathieu Bastareaud and you are getting warmer.

The Leicester coach warned his side would take their Toulon-born Heineken Cup frustrations out on their next opponents, and Wasps were the sorry recipients.

The win keeps Tigers on the tail of fashionable rivals Saracens, who recently opted for a week of rest and relaxation in the French Alps, and puts them in a strong position to secure a home semi-final with two rounds to go.

Leicester showed their engrained ability to get-the-job-done at the tail end of the season and Cockerill's side look capable of reaching their ninth consecutive Premiership final.

"There was always a danger from the last couple of weeks that you could be a bit flat," said Cockerill. "But it was job done, five points and we've guaranteed ourselves a top-four spot."

Three first-half tries got the home side underway and Ben Youngs added the bonus point score just three minutes into the second period. "There's bits to improve on but we know that when the crunch time comes the players can raise that intensity," added the Leicester coach.

Toby Flood missed a penalty opportunity to put his side ahead after nine minutes but the captain scored from his second attempt minutes later to set Leicester on their way.

Tom Croft, Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs were all scratched off the Tigers team-sheet after failing late fitness tests but their replacements of Steve Mafi, Graham Kitchener and Rob Hawkins proved equally adept.

The Leicester forwards played through a series of phases after Flood had added his second penalty and Youngs was on hand to dive over from the foot of the breakdown for the opening try on 21 minutes.

Leicester's second came in quick succession, this time through Kitchener, as the second-row bundled over in the corner to finish off a touchline-to-touchline move.

If Wasps were going to find their feet then their wide-men of Christian Wade and Tom Varndell were the obvious route. They already faced a long injury list including Marco Wentzel, Andrea Masi and James Haskell, and Wade added to that when he was taken off after 28 minutes before the winger had been given a chance to shine. The visitors did respond with two penalties before the half but the scores came either side of a third Leicester try by Hawkins, who touched down from the tail of a driving maul.

"We were very disappointed with the first-half," said the Wasps coach, Dai Young. "We couldn't handle the physicality that Tigers brought to the game. They got front-foot ball far too easy, got over the game-line far too easy and if you give them that type of ball then you're always going to struggle. We were well beaten, it's as simple as that."

Leicester secured the bonus point minutes into the second half. Tommy Bell was shown a dubious yellow card and Youngs sliced through the visitors' defence from the base of the resulting scrum.

Wasps, to their credit, kept playing. "Scraping for positives, I thought in the second half we got back into the game and showed a bit of guts and determination," added Young. "But in all honesty the game was over then."

Adam Thompstone arrived at speed for Leicester's fifth but Elliot Daly responded with dazzling footwork and a finely executed line to add Wasps' only try to his long-range penalty.

Leicester: Tries Youngs (2), Kitchener, Hawkins, Thompstone; Conversions Flood (2); Penalties Flood (2). Wasps: Try Daly; Conversion Daly; Penalties: Bell (2), Daly.

Leicester M Tait; N Morris, M Tuilagi, A Allen, A Thompstone; T Flood (capt) (G Ford, 69), B Youngs; L Mulipola (F Balmain, 61), R Hawkins (G Chuter, 69), D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, h-t), E Slater, G Kitchener, S Mafi, J Salvi (T Waldrom, h-t), J Crane.

Wasps E Daly; C Wade (J Wallace, 29), C Bell (capt), C Hayter, T Varndell; N Robinson, C Davies (J Simpson, 68); Z Taulafo, T Lindsay (N Morris, 53), W Taylor (L Romano, 58), J Cannon (A Rae, 68), T Palmer, A Johnson, J Poff (M Everard, 68), B Vunipola.

Referee J P Doyle (RFU).