Young salutes youngsters after Wasps fightback falls just short

London Wasps 23 Biarritz 26

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The Independent Online

The France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili's 75th-minute penalty ended a gallant Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final fightback by a young Wasps side. Wasps, who had six players aged 21 or under in their team, battled back from 23-9 to 23-23 before being sunk by Yachvili, who produced a 100 per cent kicking display with four penalties and the conversions of first-half tries by the former England full-back Iain Balshaw and the South African prop Eugene van Staden.

Wasps replied with tries from the winger Christian Wade and centre Ryan Davies, the fly-half Nick Robinson kicking both conversions and three penalties.

Wasps' director of rugby, David Young, said: "At one stage we looked dead and buried but the players showed a lot of determination and a lot of guts to pull themselves back into that game. With eight minutes to go it could have gone either way. I don't think we were the better team and I don't think we deserved to win – but we could have won.

"They had that little more firepower than us and they were a bit more clinical when they had the chances. I was really proud of the youngsters, who gave everything. They showed a lot of character. The performances of Joe Launchbury and Sam Jones were huge again, it looks like something will happen every time Elliot Daly has the ball, and Jack Wallace came on and did a great job. All our players are talking about the youngsters coming through so the future looks good."

Biarritz, who will be at home to the winners of today's meeting between Brive and the Scarlets in the semi-finals, should have gone ahead in the fifth minute, when the fly-half Julien Peyrelongue and Balshaw split the Wasps defence, but the flanker Wenceslas Lauret fumbled the Englishman's final pass. Robinson then kicked a simple penalty after 12 minutes.

Balshaw was proving a real handful, but with the American wing Takudzwa Ngwenya outside him he cut inside and was halted by Hugo Southwell's crunching tackle. Robinson doubled the Wasps lead eight minutes later with a second penalty, following an inexplicable error by Balshaw. Under no pressure, he knocked the ball into touch following a kick to the corner from the scrum-half Charlie Davies.

It took Balshaw a minute to make amends with the first try. Robinson, under pressure from Ngwenya, failed to take Yachvili's restart and the Zimbabwe-born winger slipped the ball to Balshaw, who had a clear run to the line. Yachvili put Biarritz 7-6 ahead and five minutes later increased the lead to 10-6 with a penalty.

Lauret limped off after another knock-on but Biarritz were able to bring on the France back-row star Imanol Harinordoquy. Robinson's third penalty cut the deficit to 10-9 but the French club again responded quickly. Balshaw and Ngwenya linked up once more in a move which ended with Van Staden squeezing in at the right-hand corner for a try that was awarded by the television match official, Iain Ramage. Yachvili converted from the touchline.

Wasps took the game to Biarritz in the second half but Yachvili's second penalty, awarded as his forwards forced the Wasps scrum into retreat, stretched the visitors' lead to 20-9 after 52 minutes. He kicked a third penalty on the hour for 23-9 but Wasps were then rewarded with two tries inthree minutes.

After 62 minutes, Robinson's kick-through deflected off a Biarritz player and bounced into the arms of Wade, who marked his return from a three-month injury absence by racing in unchallenged. Balshaw produced a try-saving tackle on Wallace but Wasps struck again when Davies forced his way over between the posts. Robinson converted both tries and the sides were level at 23-23.

Wasps then suffered the heartbreak of Yachvili's late winning kick, which came from a penalty that was awarded for an illegal tackle on the scrum-half by Wallace.

London Wasps H Southwell (J Wallace, 42); R Haughton (T Prydie, 40), E Daly, R Davis, C Wade; N Robinson, C Davies; Z Taulafo (T Payne, 55), V Korshunov (N Morris, 58), B Broster, J Cannon (R Filipo, 75), R Birkett, J Launchbury, S Jones, M Everard (J Harris, 58).

Biarritz I Balshaw; T Ngwenya (JP Barraque, 58), C Gimenez, D Haylett-Petty, B Baby; J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; Y Watremez (S Marconnet, 53), E Guinazu (R Terrain, 40), E van Staden (F Gomez Kodela, 40) E Lund (JB Roidot, 59; F Faure, 76), P Taele-Pavihi, W Lauret (I Harinordoquy, 33), R Lakafia, B Guyot.

Referee J Lacey (Ireland).

London Wasps

Tries: Wade, Davis

Cons: Robinson 2

Pens: Robinson 3


Tries: Balshaw, Van Staden

Cons: Yachvili 2

Pens: Yachvili 4