Healey draws Wasps' sting

Wasps 17 - Leicester 17
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The Independent Online

If ever two teams cancelled each other out, it was this pair. They share too many common factors: first against third in the Zurich Premiership at kick off, just five points apart, and each team boasting a former England captain - Lawrence Dallaglio for Wasps and Martin Johnson for Leicester.

If ever two teams cancelled each other out, it was this pair. They share too many common factors: first against third in the Zurich Premiership at kick off, just five points apart, and each team boasting a former England captain - Lawrence Dallaglio for Wasps and Martin Johnson for Leicester.

It was not the prettiest of games. All too often players found themselves unable to get a footing when trying to launch an attack and they would slip and slide on the greasy surface. Kicking from hand was, therefore, at a premium. Possession was sacrificed with the onus of what to do with the ball happily given to the opposition. The dank conditions added to the overall misery and there was nothing to choose between the sides. Home advantage was kicked away by Wasps, they seemed to want to hoof everything upfield and into Leicester's grateful grasp; while the Tigers were happy to launch the odd "bomb" or boomer as they each sought some sort of edge.

This was the first of three high-power meetings between the two clubs over the next four weeks. The remaining two matches are the back-to-back Heineken Cup Pool One ties early next month, but as a guide to the outcome of those forthcoming games, yesterday's dull affair was of little use.

Perhaps Leicester take a psychological edge with them into the European games because they at least outscored Wasps by two tries to one, and they were the away side. For Wasps it was tantamount to a defeat but at least they move up the table into second place.

The Tigers' first touchdown was scored by the impressive Tom Varndell, a powerfully built speed machine who takes some stopping, and who steps as surefootedly as mountain goat. Their second try came via Austin Healey, who had the presence of mind to fling himself into a prone slide when some four metres out which rendered him unstoppable. It was his fourth Premiership try of the season for the Zurich leaders and was as valuable as it was timely, coming as it did with a bare five minutes of the match remaining.

Andy Goode's second successful conversion ensured Leicester two championship points, Wasps' identical haul lifting them into second place in the table. The home team thundered upfield and pounded the Leicester line in a desperate bid to regain the lead, but Leicester held firm.

Wasps: Tries Van Gisbergen; Penalties Thrower 4; Leicester: Tries Varndell, Healey; Conversions Goode 2; Penalty Goode.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; E Thrower, P Richards, A Erinle, T Voyce; J Brooks, M Dawson (H Biljon, 80+1); C Dowd, P Greening (T Leota, 64), W Green, S Shaw, R Birkett, J Hart (M Lock, 79), L Dallaglio (capt), T Rees.

Leicester: S Vesty; T Varndell, M Cornwell, D Gibson, A Healey; A Goode, S Bemand; M Holford, J Buckland (E Taukafa, 56), D Morris, M Johnson (capt), L Deacon, H Tuilagi (D Montagu, 62), W Johnson, N Back.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire)

* Newcastle, who had led for most of the game, were beaten five minutes into injury time by London Irish yesterday, as the Exiles' forwards drove their scrum-half, Paul Hodgson, over the try-line. The surge was too much for Newcastle and Barry Everitt converted the try to give Irish a six-point win, 21-15. The home side's last chance looked to have gone when Everitt missed with a left-foot drop goal attempt a minute into injury time. But they managed to mount one big final assault to secure their fifth successive victory in league and European competition.

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