For once a team lived up to its sobriquet. The Celtic Warriors were just that as they pulled off a shock win against Wasps at Wycombe. Three teams have 10 points in Pool Six, with Wasps now second behind Perpignan and a nose in front of the Welsh side.
"They put us under a lot of pressure, and they probably had the better of us up front," admitted Warren Gatland, their director of rugby. The appalling weather did not help the home cause either and Gatland acknowledged that his team has a tendency to struggle in adverse conditions.
As for the Welsh regional side they were thrilled. Not even the fact that Aisea Havili's 75th-minute try should have been disallowed because the Tongan winger clipped a corner flag as he went over, could detract from a fine performance. If there had been a video referee - and BSkyB were broadcasting the match live - then the try would not have stood.
Gatland, though, was stoical about the score. "I have no problems about the try because they had kicked through, he had beaten Kenny Logan, and the fact that he touched the corner flag is immaterial because there was no video ref." The competition regulations only permit the use of video referees from the quarter-final stages onwards, which obviously rankled a little with Gatland, who added: "When there is a lot at stake I cannot understand why there is no video referee. It is disappointing." Not nearly as disappointing as his team's failure to adapt to the conditions and to overcome a team that was without five first-choice players.
"We came here to put their game plan under pressure," explained Warriors' canny coach Lynn Howells, "and that is what we did." That tactic meant that the threat of Wasps' talented back row was neutralised, with Lawrence Dallaglio, Joe Worsley and Paul Volley struggling to get their hands on the ball, let alone do anything with it when they were in possession. Warriors' Richard Parks, another Tongan Maama Molitika, and Cory Harris were more than equal to their task, so much so that Rob Howley, Wasps experienced scrum-half, was more often than not forced into errors The discipline of the Welsh team was also admirable. They did not concede a kickable penalty until the second half, yet were happy to be blown up in their own half as they spoiled Wasps ball.
Wasps in contrast fell foul of the French referee far too often and gave Ceri Sweeney, the Wales fly-half, three shots at goal in the first half, two of which he converted. Those opening 40 minutes contained very little of note. Wasps did not threaten their opponents' line and even when their hooker Mefin Davies was sent to the sin bin after half an hour the home team was unable to take advantage.
Alex King pulled them into the game in the 48th minute with his first penalty and his third levelled the match, after Sweeney had added his third goal. But the invention, and the force, was with the Warriors. Havili was only just beaten to the ball after a dramatic chase down the right and a couple of minutes later a grubber from full-back Gareth Wyatt, after a couple of probing darts from replacement scrum-half Gareth Cooper had rattled Wasps, saw Havili burst clear and pounce on the ball. Now they have to do it all again on Friday night at the Brewery Field in Bridgend.
Wasps: Penalties King 3. Celtic Warriors: Try Havili; Penalties Sweeney 3.
Wasps: J Lewsey; T Voyce (J Rudd, 65), F Waters, M Denney (A Erinle, 65), K Logan; A King, R Howley; C Dowd, T Leota (P Greening, 61), T Payne (W Green, 61), S Shaw, M Purdy, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley (J O'Connor, 69).
Celtic Warriors: G Wyatt; D James, S Parker, G Thomas (capt), A Havili; C Sweeney, S Martens (G Cooper, 65); C Loader, M Davies, G Jenkins, B Cockbain, D Jones, M Molitika (M Rees, 35-40; N Kelly, 72), R Parks, C Harris.
Referee: E Darrière (France).Reuse content