Shaw gets an ovation as trapdoor looms for substandard Leeds

Wasps 51 Leeds 18
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The Independent Online

For Wasps five points too late to influence their season beyond pride; for Leeds no points in their increasingly desperate battle to retain Premiership status.

League tables, however, do not lie. Wasps are building for the future after a season of mediocrity, while Leeds, who managed a Lazarus-like resurrection this time last season, are short of the quality to do anything other than struggle at this level.

When Simon Shaw, 37 years young, does so much damage to a side as the veteran Lions and England lock managed to inflict on Leeds during this game yesterday, it says everything you need to know about your problems. The big man received a deserved ovation when replaced by Jim Cannon shortly before the end.

Yet despite trailing 5-3, Leeds had more possession, and ideas, during the first quarter, with the England hooker Steve Thompson and No 8 Danny Paul featuring in most of what was good about their examinations of the home defence. And this despite suffering the type of unfortunate start that tends to befall teams with their backs against the proverbial.

With just two minutes gone, Richard Haughton collected a ball knocked loose in a tackle and kicked it up the right wing. Joe Simpson hacked it ahead and beat Peter Wackett in a sprint. Wasps, offside in front of their post, gifted Adrian Jarvis a seventh-minute penalty, but despite bags of effort and ball, Leeds lacked the incisive skills necessary to unlock the home defence.

In fact, the next scorers were Wasps, a well-struck goal by David Walder on 35 minutes after the Leeds full-back Michael Stephenson was shown a yellow card for ball-killing at a ruck.

Leeds reduced the arrears within two minutes, Jarvis making no mistake with another penalty only for Walder to kick his second penalty a minute later – but then the half ended the way it had begun – cruelly for Leeds. Wasps broke right, Walder sent a grubber kick up the wing, and Haughton reacted quickest to make the touchdown as Lee Blackett tried but failed to fill in for Stephenson, who had been sent to the sin bin.

The writing began appearing on the wall within minutes of the restart.

Leeds were again caught on the ball, Wasps again hacked the ball on and Haughton did what quick backs do, he accelerated away for his second try, converted by Walder.

Wasps' fourth try killed off all lingering doubts, Joe Ward scoring from close range, and when Simpson scorched through a punch-drunk ensemble of "defenders" for a superb solo second try, the trapdoor creaked ominously open below the visitors.

By the time Christian Lewis-Pratt bombed up the right wing for a last-minute Leeds try, most of his Wasps opponents had switched off.

Wasps: Tries Simpson (2), Haughton (2), Ward, Vunipola, Taulafo; Conversions Walder (4), Atkinson; Penalties Walder (2). Leeds: Tries Oakley, Lewis-Pratt. Conversion Jarvis. Penalties Jarvis (2).

Wasps M van Gisbergen; R Haughton, E Daly (S Jewell; 64), R Flutey, J Wallace; D Walder (M Atkinson, 76), J Simpson (J Holmes, 71); T Payne (Z Taulafo, 51), T Lindsay (J Ward, 49), B Broster (B Baker, 71), S Shaw, J Launchbury, J Hart (captain), D Ward-Smith, S Jones (B Vunipola, 56).

Leeds M Stephenson; L Blackett (C Lewis-Pratt, 76), H Fa'afili, L Burrell (L Mackay, 78), P Wackett; A Jarvis, S Mathie (D White, 60); G Hardy, S Thompson (captain; P Nilsen, 57), J Gomez (G Denman 58), D Browne, S Hohneck (R Oakley, 56), K Myall, D Paul (T Denton, 73), H Furie.

Referee D Rose (RFU).

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