Dallaglio the gladiator stands tall against blood and gold hordes

Perpignan 6 Wasps 34
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You do not mess with Lawrence Dallaglio. In a week when the ink dried on his new contract with Wasps, and Clive Woodward appointed him back to the job he wanted so much, to be captain of England, there was no way he wanted to wake up before dawn this morning to fly back to Stansted and straight into a two-day England training session trying to recover from defeat.

He had been warned. Blood and gold is how Perpignan like to describe their red and yellow colours. This was a winner-takes-all war in what Dallaglio described as a hugely gladiatorial arena but, in the end, it was home side that was bloodied and Wasps carried off the gold of a home quarter-final place in the Heineken Cup.

Not only that, from the least promising of build-ups they picked up a bonus point from the deeply cutting wounds of four tries, edged Munster out of second seed place, and were expecting to welcome Gloucester to High Wycombe in April.

If Perpignan, especially up front, gave no quarter, they were also left in no doubt that this was a Wasps side that knew how to handle southern French rugby aggression and it was Wasps who had two players sent to the sin-bin, Simon Shaw for punching, Jonny O'Connor for persistent killing of the ball on the ground. It could have been more but "we weren't being cynical," Dallaglio insisted, "we were just defending our hearts out." There were some shuddering tackles. This was no time to play patsy.

They had, said Dallaglio, come down three days early with just one idea; to win the game. Bonus points were not on their minds, the maths of quarter-final pairings were someone else's problem.

That they did so playing for 20 minutes with 14 men and having seen their first choice kicker, Alex King, give his left thigh muscle a slight pull when running up for his first penalty attempt, awarded after just 45 seconds, gives even greater emphasis to the way in which Wasps put up such an impressive display when the pressure was on.

The niggle between the front rows went on from beginning to end, Wasps could never rely on a clean supply of ball from the line-out and, despite bright sunshine and fast running conditions, Perpignan wanted to keep things tight. Their Australian stand-off, Manny Edmonds, never looked like releasing his back line, but, then, he rarely does.

Edmonds kicked two penalties in the first half but O'Connor was able to exploit a huge gap on the left for a try, and the conversion sealed the first half in Wasps' favour.

With Edmonds moving to full-back, Perpignan then started to fling the ball about more, but a try by Tom Voyce going into the final quarter must have broken their hearts. "They taught us a lesson," admitted Dan Luger, as Ayoola Erinle, after being on the filed for just three minutes, completed a van Gisbergen break. It could not have been more fitting that Dallaglio bullocked over to put the icing on the cake.

Perpignan: Penalties Edmonds 2. Wasps: Tries O'Connor, Voyce, Erinle, Dallaglio; Conversions Van Gisbergen 4; Penalties Van Gisbergen 2.

Perpignan: F Cermeno (N Laharrague, 39); P Bomati, P Giordani, D Herbert, D Luger; M Edmonds, L Loustau (J Fillol, 69); P Freshwater (V Debaty, 70), M Konieckiewicz (N Grelon, 54), N Mas (F Tournaire, 54), C Gaston, R Alvarez-Kairelis, B Goutta (capt), L Mallier, M O'Driscoll.

Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, F Waters, M Denney (A Erinle, 72), T Voyce (J Rudd, 75); A King, R Howley (P Richards, 75); C Dowd, T Leota (B Gotting, 70), W Green (T Payne, 70), S Shaw, M Purdy, J Worsley, J O'Connor, L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

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