Dave Walder has spread his wings by becoming a backs coach to Rosslyn Park in National League One, but the Wasps fly-half is not stinting in his day job of supplying the wings at Adams Park, as this knockabout match proved. Leicester, the reigning champions, had four tries and a 12-point lead at the end of the first half and appeared to be home and hosed until Walder called the fire brigade, kicking the corners and all his goals to lead a remarkable turnaround.
"Coaching at Rosslyn Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays has helped me with understanding the game," said Walder, easily the top No 10 at Wasps now Danny Cipriani has gone and Riki Flutey has expressed his preference to play at inside-centre. "It's good to have Riki alongside me as a playmaker.
"There was desperation at half-time but with control. We analysed where Leicester's first-half tries had come from: one was first phase, one was turnover, one was a quick tap. So the problem was, we weren't making them go through phases. And we knew when Jez [the Leicester fly-half Jeremy Staunton] went off they didn't have a goal-kicker so it was important to make them play from deep."
It certainly hampered Leicester when Billy Twelvetrees moved from centre to cover for Staunton, who went off with a sore achilles tendon. The teenaged George Ford is the other cover for the crocked Toby Flood and for a club accustomed to packing its bench with internationals, the Tigers are unusually short due to injuries.
Wasps, for their part, have Seb Jewell, with 13 Premiership appearances for Harlequins behind him, as their fly-half alternative.
Wasps also saw Tom Varndell limp off after the super-quick wing had sprinted in for two tries against his old club. But they took maximum advantage of Leicester's obvious discomfort with the refereeing directives which favour the attacking side after the tackle. It has been a sine qua non in the Tigers' years of success that they rip ball from opponents at will. They need to put it right again.
After Mark van Gisbergen missed a medium-range conversion of Varndell's opening try, Walder kicked a penalty from further out and racked up 22 points including four second-half penalties which reined in Leicester's 30-18 interval lead. The Tigers had made the home defence look shoddy as Twelvetrees, Matt Smith and Tom Croft scored tries, and then there was Ben Youngs. The incumbent England scrum-half tapped a penalty to himself after a scrum offence and ran a smidgen over 60 metres without a finger laid on him.
Leicester have not conceded as many points against English opposition since losing 43-25 at Bath in 2006. They might have done better if Twelvetrees had landed a penalty for a potential 33-24 lead on 66 minutes or, with four minutes left, Geordan Murphy had dealt with a chip by Walder, which bounced towards the left corner with a scintilla of sidespin. It was hard to judge what was in Murphy's mind – he may not have been sure himself, having just got up after a bang on the head – but he let in Richard Haughton, the wing signed from Saracens, to hack on and score the clinching try. Walder's sumptuous conversion made it eight from eight for him.
The game at large is patting itself on the back for the return of tries, despite concerns that scoring might be getting too easy. Well, these teams met here in the second half of the 2008-9 season which was generally considered to have been ruined by the experimental law variations. Wasps won 36-29 and Cipriani at fly-half landed eight kicks for 21 points. Plus ça change...
Wasps: Tries Varndell 2, Haughton; Conversions Walder 2; Penalties Walder 6. Leicester: Tries Smith, Youngs, Twelvetrees, Croft; Conversions Staunton 2; Penalties Staunton 2.
Wasps: M van Gisbergen; T Varndell (R Haughton, 45), D Waldouck, R Flutey, D Lemi; D Walder, N Berry; T Payne, R Webber (J Ward, 54), B Broster, S Shaw, J Cannon (R Birkett, 44), J Worsley (D Ward-Smith, 13-20), T Rees (capt), A Powell (Ward-Smith, 60).
Leicester G Murphy (capt; H Agulla, 77); S Hamilton, M Smith, B Twelvetrees, A Tuilagi; J Staunton (M Tuilagi, h-t), B Youngs; M Ayerza, G Chuter, M Castrogiovanni (D Cole, 50), E Slater, G Skivington, T Croft, B Woods, T Waldrom.
Referee: W Barnes (London).Reuse content