The last time Leeds won a Premiership match away from the broad acres, England were still world champions. And the last time they beat Wasps? Don't bother looking it up, because it has never previously happened. The Yorkshiremen made a little history for themselves at Adams Park yesterday afternoon, on the day the Londoners confirmed plans to shift their St George's Day fixture against Bath to Twickenham in the hope of attracting an 80,000 gate. The way they played here, they might just about fill the phone box outside.
Bolstered by their near-miss at Saracens late last month, the Premiership's bottom club – the only team without a win – travelled south with a big line-out presence, a back-row boasting a workaholic breakaway specialist in Hendre Fourie and attitude to burn. They fought like dogs at the breakdown against a side renowned for their own canine characteristics in that department and kicked their goals when the opportunities arose, which was often. Ceiron Thomas' return of five successes in six attempts was enough to decide the issue.
It was no mean effort from the Welshman, given the strength of the wind and the amount of water squelching underfoot, but the real honours went to the likes of Fourie, Erik Lund, Marco Wentzel and Kearnan Myall in the Leeds pack.
These are not household names, even in their own households, but Wasps certainly know who they are now. When the bald-as-a-coot Lund, brother of the former England flanker Magnus, pilfered a crucial piece of line-out possession from under the aristocratic nose of Simon Shaw at the last knockings, it was a perfect summing-up of the previous 79 minutes.
"Going into this game, we had the No 1 ranked line-out in the country," groaned Shaun Edwards, the Wasps head coach. "It's probably been the best part of our game. That's why it came as such a surprise to have such problems in that area today."
Tony Hanks, the director of rugby, could be heard singing from the same charge sheet. "That's our week ahead – working out what the hell happened to our set-piece game," he said. "It's not that we prepared poorly, or that there was any lack of focus. I think we'll go back to training like crap and just turning up on the day."
While Hanks described the atmosphere in the Wasps dressing room as one of "disappointment, frustration and anger", his opposite number, Andy Key, was last seen heading for the nearest bar. "Our performance wasn't the prettiest and it didn't show the best of Leeds in terms of the rugby we're capable of playing, but we gnarled it out and it's worthy of celebration," he remarked.
"Most of our efforts have been geared towards ensuring our players are fit enough to play for 80 minutes at this level. Now our fitness has improved, we're better able to compete week in, week out."
All of which will send a chill wind blowing around the West Country, where the likes of Bath and Gloucester are experiencing a sharp downturn in playing fortunes. Leeds are now a mere two points shy of the former and three adrift of the latter, with a home fixture against Sale in the next round of matches on 22 November. Bath are on the road at Worcester that weekend, while Gloucester have the dubious privilege of welcoming Leicester to Kingsholm.
Might Leeds really be equipped to stay up this season and guarantee themselves an extra £1m in Premiership revenue into the bargain? A month ago, when they succumbed to a volley of popgun bullets fired by Gloucester at Headingley, it seemed an awfully long shot, yet the last couple of weeks have been perception-altering.
It will be some time before they throw the ball around with the élan associated with the French side of Serge Blanco and Didier Codornieu, and their scrum still needs a good deal of time spending on it. But a result like this can be transformative. If they did not believe in themselves before yesterday afternoon, they certainly believe now. And that makes them dangerous.
Wasps: Penalties: Walder (3). Leeds: Penalties: Thomas (5).
Wasps: M Van Gisbergen (T Varndell 71); P Sackey, L Mitchell, S Kefu (E Hickey 71), D Lemi; D Walder, J Simpson; G Bocca (C Beech 71), J Ward, B Broster, G Skivington, R Birkett, J Worsley, S Betsen (capt), D Leo (S Shaw 50).
Leeds: L Hinton; R Welding, J Hepworth, S Barrow, L Blackett; C Thomas, A Gomarsall (S Mathie 55); G Hardy (T McGee 71), V Ma'asi (P Nilsen 55), J Gomez (P Swainston 55), E Lund, M Wentzel (capt), K Myall (C Clark 80), H Fourie, A To'oala (R Oakley h-t).
Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).Reuse content