Wasps failed to seize the moment and were made to pay the price as their Heineken Cup campaign came to an abrupt end in the south of France yesterday. The Londoners were victorious here on their way to the title in 2007, but in this season's tournament it proved the graveyard for their hopes of progressing further.
Wasps have been been unable to make it out of the pool stage for the past two years since that triumph at Twickenham but will be kicking themselves at squandering this chance.
A team performance this was not, but two moments of individual excellence from Danny Cipriani and then Dom Waldouck, 13 minutes from time, handed them the lead after trailing 14-3 early on. Wasps had to clinch a bonus point to surpass the Ospreys for one of the two best runners-up spots in the quarter-finals but chances went begging and they were ultimately caught with a classic counter-punch four minutes from time.
"We are all devastated to lose because this is a tournament we take very seriously and it was massively important for us to get to the quarter-finals," said their coach, Shaun Edwards. "We knew there were no guarantees before this game but we had lots of chances to win this game. At this level, you have to be able to finish them and we didn't do that."
Riki Flutey looked strong, Cipriani kicked well enough and Waldouck was inventive, but that mattered little as Castres were hungrier at the break-down, where they stole a glut of possession. Wasps' lineout faltered and the departure of Carl Hoeft resulted in passive scrums for the final 20 minutes.
"That's the fifth time this season that our scrums have had to be uncontested and that obviously gives opposition forwards an opportunity to rest at a time when we are on top of our game. The issue needs to be looked at," said Edwards. "But now we have to move on and make sure we qualify for next year's tournament. The rest of this season will be a real test of character and about actions, not words."
Having clawed their way back from 14-3 down inside 23 minutes, after Thomas Bouquié and then former All Black Chris Masoe scored with concerning ease, Wasps blew this game and qualification in the second half.
Despite their failings in the tackle area, the four tries needed to progress where there for the taking after Cipriani scorched 40 metres to reduce the arrears before half-time. But Rob Webber fumbled with the try line at his mercy and not a Castres shirt in sight following Flutey's break from deep and Sackey's intelligent inside pass.
Joe Worsley held out Akvsenti Giorgadze on the line and a minute later, Waldouck put Wasps ahead for the first time, beating two men to keep the qualification door ajar.
The tie was sealed in the space of two minutes when Mark van Gisbergen failed to collect Dave Walder's pass before the full-back was easily beaten by opposite number Bouquié to hammer the nail in Wasps' coffin.
Castres Olympique: Tries Bouquié 2, Masoe; Conversions Teulet 3. Wasps: Try Cipriani, Waldouck; Conversion Cipriani; Penalty Cipriani.
Castres Olympique: T Bouquié; P Bonnefond, S Kefu, L Mazars (T Sanchou, 60), R Carballo; R Teulet (A Lagardere, 78), S Tillous-Borde (K Senio, 45); C Hoeft (R Terrain, 60), A Giorgadze, L Ducalcon (F Staibano, 55), L Nallet (capt), K Kulemin, S Malonga (F Faure, 52), J Tekori, C Masoe, J Tekori.
Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, D Waldouck (T Voyce, 67), R Flutey, J Lewsey; D Cipriani (D Walder, 68), E Reddan (J Simpson, 76); T Payne (D Leo, 67), R Webber (J Ward, 58), P Vickery (capt), S Shaw (G Skivington, 54), R Birkett, J Worsley, J Haskell, S Betsen.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland).Reuse content