Dowd lifts Wasps over sinking Leeds

Leeds 18 Wasps 28
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The Independent Online

Wasps have not turned the corner yet, but at least they can see where it is after hauling themselves off the foot of the table to climb above Leeds on points difference, after a workmanlike performance at Headingley yesterday.

Phil Davies, the director of rugby at Leeds, said before the game that he expected the battle to avoid the drop to go to the wire. What he didn't say was that for the second half of this game he expected his side to play on a high wire without the benefit of a safety net and points in the bank. Until the break, when they led 12-9, Leeds were far more composed. They had not been undermined by the vastly more street-wise and powerful Wasps' pack, though ultimately it was their lack of experience and the way Wasps exposed their tactical shortcomings which determined the outcome.

"We showed glimpses of what we can do," Davies said, "but Wasps were very clinical. We were wholehearted, but not quite good enough, and not as direct as we should have been. And it was very disappointing to concede that last try and miss out on a bonus point."

Having chosen to face the breeze in the first half, Wasps took control after the interval with passages of play which could have been taken from an All Black text book. The New Zealand maxim of the three Ps: Position, Pressure and Points was followed to the letter by Alex King and Kenny Logan, who kept Leeds pinned in their own third of the field with some astute kicking. The Wasps' forwards then piled on the pressure for one of their two All Blacks, Craig Dowd, to finish the job with a brace of tries.

What had separated the two sides in an understandably tense first half was ambition. Leeds showed some, Wasps had none. Where Wasps were ponderous and predictable in midfield, Leeds looked to move the ball at every opportunity.

Though they failed to nail home several try-scoring chances, most notably when Tom Palmer was squeezed out in the right corner and Chris Kendra was cut down with the line at his mercy. It was to cost Leeds dearly for all they had to show for their enterprise was four penalties by Braam van Straaten to two penalties and a drop goal by King.

From then on, although Van Straaten kicked two more penalties after Mark Lock had scored Wasps' first try, it was the Londoners who held sway. They exerted a defensive stranglehold from which Leeds never looked likely to escape, and exploited their attacking potential with an alacrity well beyond the home side.

The Wasps director of rugby, Nigel Melville, was more than a little relieved. "It's not been about just one game," he said. "But winning away from home is a significant boost for us. With Phil Greening, Paul Sampson and Lawrence Dallaglio set to return within a month, things can only get better"

Leeds: Penalties Van Straaten 6. Wasps: Tries Dowd 2, Lock; Conversions King 2; Penalties King 2; Drop goal King.

Leeds: J Benson (C Hall, 60); D Scarbrough (C Mather, 80), S Woof (T Davies, 60), B van Straaten, C Emmerson; S Bachop, C Kendra (J O'Reilly, 79); M Shelley (capt), M Holt, G Kerr, C Murphy (E Jones, 60), T Palmer, C Hogg, D Hyde, I Feaunati.

Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, F Waters, M Denney (capt), K Logan; A King, M Friday; C Dowd, T Leota, W Green, S Shaw, I Jones, J Worsley, P Volley, M Lock.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).