Healey has Tigers purring

Wasps 17 Leicester 48
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Most people's favourites to win the Heineken Cup in a fortnight collapsed against the former champions in a half-cocked footnote to the already well-rehearsed debate over the end-of-season format. Instead of a fascinating duel in the sun between trophy-chasing Wasps and resurgent Leicester, we had an unfulfilling rout in the rain.

Most people's favourites to win the Heineken Cup in a fortnight collapsed against the former champions in a half-cocked footnote to the already well-rehearsed debate over the end-of-season format. Instead of a fascinating duel in the sun between trophy-chasing Wasps and resurgent Leicester, we had an unfulfilling rout in the rain.

Wasps' coach, Warren Gatland, called it "a good old-fashioned dicking" but it had its roots in the mostly new-fangled system of play-offs dovetailing uncomfortably with Europe's denouement.

Leicester, on the hottest streak in the Premiership with eight matches unbeaten since the beginning of February, will now aim to defeat Harlequins at Welford Road in a Wildcard semi-final on Saturday evening. But one of several daft aspects about it all is that if Quins go on to lose the Parker Pen Challenge Cup against Montferrand, and Wasps win the Heineken Cup, Leicester will be through to Europe and can drop out of the Wildcard final on 29 May.

In other circumstances, Leicester would have been exultant at inflicting the only league double on the reigning Premiership champions this season, and scoring six tries to one in the process. They had to settle for being quietly satisfied. Wasps were distracted by the prospect of possibly two Premiership play-off matches and certainly the Heineken final in the next three weeks. At the start, Wasps were missing an international in each row of the scrum; by the fourth quarter seven more frontline players were withdrawn.

Wasps will return here a week today for a repeat of last season's play-off semi-final against Northampton. They would have preferred to be resting up for Toulouse at Twickenham the following weekend, but Bath's win yesterday put paid to that. "We do want to get to the final of the Premiership," said Gatland, in case this record-equalling home league defeat left anyone in doubt. "We played well for 25 minutes then let Leicester in for two soft tries which gave them momentum."

Having rattled up 75 points against Rotherham in their previous outing, Leicester had plenty of momentum anyway. The backs have rediscovered the élan and thrust of a couple of seasons ago, though they will need a new fly-half when Jaco van der Westhuyzen in the summer.

Austin Healey finished off a sumptuous try - Leicester's second after Ollie Smith's opener - in the 35th minute, at which point it was 11-10 to the visitors. By the hour mark, the scoreline read 34-17 and Gatland had seen enough. Off came Lawrence Dallaglio among others, the England captain having grudgingly bent the knee to his predecessor, Martin Johnson.

Healey cut in off his wing to claim his second try after 48 minutes, then Andy Goode scored two on the way to 28 more points. Harry Ellis finished it off, and Stuart Abbott's 27th-minute try for Wasps seemed but a distant memory.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; J Lewsey (A Erinle, 61), F Waters, S Abbott, T Voyce (K Logan, 52); A King, R Howley (H Biljon, 61); T Payne, T Leota (B Gotting, 54), W Green (A McKenzie, 61), M Purdy, R Birkett (G Skivington, 61), L Dallaglio (capt) (J Hart, 61), M Lock, P Volley.

Leicester: A Goode; A Healey (F Tuilagi, 77), L Lloyd (G Gelderbloom, 67), O Smith, G Murphy; J van der Westhuyzen, H Ellis; D Morris, G Chuter (D West, 74), J White, M Johnson (capt), L Deacon, M Corry, W Johnson (H Tuilagi, 74), N Back (A Balding, 63).

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

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