Vickery stamps his authority on Wasps

London Wasps 19 Leinster 12: Captain takes a kicking before opting for a controversial late kick at goal
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The Independent Online

Wasps, twice winners of the Heineken Cup which is two more than Leinster, kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages when they won an incendiary match against the Irish province last night. There were three yellow cards, uncontested scrums and a host of penalties. If you stage it they will come, and more than 33,000 spectators, about a third of them from Dublin, were at Twickenham to watch a potential denouement to Pool Two.

It was not quite as simple as that as Wasps avenged, if that is the right word, their 41-11 defeat in Dublin in October. This was a very different affair and the teams emerged with 16 points apiece, thanks to the bonus point Leinster earned for finishing within seven of their hosts.

The Irish province top the pool thanks to their superior head to head record. Next weekend Wasps travel to Castres and Leinster entertain Edinburgh. If they are still level on points after that, Leinster will top the group. Wasps could thus have done with denying their opponents a bonus point here; their choice of a shot at goal from a late penalty was interesting – a try would have left Leinster with nothing. That was not a certain outcome, of course, and Dave Walder did make certain of the win with his successful kick.

In what was called the Battle of the Capitals, Wasps, who have a splendid record at Twickenham in matches that really matter, got home by a goal and four penalties to four penalties. The only try was scored by the flanker Serge Betsen, who went on to serve time in the sin-bin. He was not alone.

As the early skirmishes were fought in Leinster territory, Danny Cipriani had a number of opportunities to put Wasps ahead. His first attempt at goal was like something out of a horror show. From a comfortable position, Cipriani snapped at the kick and missed it by the proverbial.

After Riki Flutey had knocked the wind out of Brian O'Driscoll with a heavy tackle, Wasps had another penalty chance. Cipriani's strike in the eighth minute was much more confident than his lamentable first effort but the ball rebounded off the right hand upright.

Two minutes later, however, Wasps' pressure was rewarded when Leinster committed an elementary error and Cipriani this time made it 3-0.

It soon became a lot more, as Wasps scored the first try with a terrific counter-attack. Isa Nacewa, Cipriani's opposite number, failed to find touch, not for the first time, and the ball was run back from long range in great fashion by Josh Lewsey, who threaded his way through the midfield, finding rare space.

The momentum was maintained when Lewsey delivered a long pass to his right, where he found the right man in the England wing Paul Sackey. Sackey made inroads down the flank and although he was stopped just short, George Skivington drove towards the line. The lock lost the ball about a foot short of the whitewash but Betsen was on hand to pick up and dive over. The question for the referee, Christophe Berdos, was whether Skivington had knocked on. The video official ruled that he had not and the try was good... very good.

Cipriani's conversion gave Wasps a 10-0 lead and he and Contepomi then exchanged penalties. As Berdos began to deal his pack of cards Leinster, surprisingly, began to come more into the game and after Contepomi had missed with a penalty, he was more accurate with two further attempts before half-time to reduce Wasps' lead to four as the match went into uncontested scrums. It was the only thing that was uncontested but it nevertheless left an unsatisfactory taste.

The controversy of uncontested scrums came about because Leinster's two recognised props, CJ van der Linde and Stanley Wright, left the field before half-time. Was it cynical? Well, both had to pass fitness tests before making the teamsheet and Van der Linde only lasted 17 minutes. Wright lasted 37 before making way for the back-row forward Sean O'Brien.

Therefore, under the laws, the scrums were depressured, and front-row aficionados were deflated. It didn't prevent the encounter from remaining close, and there were no more yellow cards after the drama of the first half. The first player to get one was the Leinster full-back, Robert Kearney, who appeared to do nothing wrong as he was manhandled into touch by the aggressive Sackey, and then Shane Horgan entered the debate. After consulting a touch judge, Berdos sent a bewildered Kearney to the sin-bin.

The other yellows were far more clear cut. Malcolm O'Kelly stamped, not on the ball, which was nowhere near his boot, but on the head of Phil Vickery. The Raging Bull needed treatment as O'Kelly tropped off for a 10 minute breather. The offence by Betsen was a trip on Contepomi as the Leinster centre followed up a kick ahead. The card matched the bright colour of Betsen's scrum cap.

After Cipriani and Contepomi had once again exchanged penalties, it was Walder who had the last word with a penalty in the dying minutes which sealed Wasps' victory by seven points.

London Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, D Waldouck, R Flutey, J Lewsey; D Cipriani, E Reddan; T Payne, R Webber, P Vickery (capt), G Skivington, R Birkett, J Worsley, J Haskell, S Betsen. Replacements: J Ward, T French, H Ellis, D Leo, J Simpson, D Walder, T Voyce.

Leinster: R Kearney; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll (capt), F Contepomi, L Fitzgerald; I Nacewa, C Whitaker; S Wright, B Jackman, CJ van der Linde, L Cullen, M O'Kelly, R Elsom, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements: J Fogarty, C Healy, T Hogan, S O'Brien, C Keane, G D'Arcy, G Dempsey.

Referee: C Berdos (France).

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