Johnson and Back sign off in some style

Leicester 45 - Wasps 10
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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson predicted a swift rematch with Wasps in the Premiership final at Twickenham on Saturday week, and perhaps on that occasion the reigning champions will turn up. Lawrence Dallaglio's title holders were unrecognisably meek and mild in leaving the way clear for Johnson, Neil Back and John Wells to say their various goodbyes to Welford Road with a five-try romp in the sun.

Difficult though it is to imagine Leicester running out at home without Johnson and Back - after 340-odd matches on the ground between them - that is how it will be from now on. The long-in-the-tooth Tigers, who are retiring from playing in the summer, took an emotional lap of honour with Wells, the head coach soon to be joining the Rugby Football Union's National Academy.

In a typically down to earth touch, each man was presented with his coat-peg from the dressing-room as a memento of a combined 54 years' service to the club. Replica coat-pegs, at that, as a win for Wasps would have meant Leicester coming back for a Premiership semi-final this weekend. Instead, Wasps will host Sale in High Wycombe, with Leicester taking a break.

"It was nice to finish with a great win at Welford Road," said Johnson, whose future plans are unknown beyond a testimonial match against a Jonah Lomu XV at Twickenham in June. "I've been a fan of the club long before I became a player and I'll be a fan long after. I think Wasps will get through to the final, but if we played them again tomorrow we wouldn't be confident of winning, let alone winning by 35 points. They're a very dangerous team."

Wasps know the score all right, having won the Premiership by this sidedoor route in each of the past two seasons.

"I'm happy that we've got the extra game after having not played last weekend," said Warren Gatland, their outgoing director of rugby. "We need to take this chance to win against Sale and redeem ourselves against Leicester."

There was a routine closeness to the affair, with Leicester leading 6-3 after the opening quarter, until Henry Tuilagi battered a hole between Tom Rees and Alex King to set up a wonderful try at the posts by Harry Ellis. Miserably for Tuilagi, his next charge was his downfall. Wasps' Tom Voyce hauled him down close to the line, Tuilagi's right leg gave way, and he fractured the tibia and fibula. The clean nature of the break, which will shorten the recovery time, was the Samoan's only solace.

Leicester continued their assault on Wasps' rush defence with Andy Goode flinging the ball wide, and there were further tries for Daryl Gibson, Geordan Murphy, Back and Danny Hipkiss. Wasps' backs coach, Shaun Edwards, was absent with a stomach bug. It was a good one to miss.

At the end Johnson thanked the capacity crowd for their support these last 16 years. Back did not take the microphone.

"I would have burst into tears and anyway, I didn't have my teeth in," he said, adding with a smile he would have preferred a gold Rolex to the coat-peg. Tears and laughter in Welford Road: it could be a film title, though for Wasps it would have been a "noir".

Leicester: Tries Ellis, Gibson, Murphy, Back, Hipkiss; Conversions Goode 4; Penalties Goode 3; Drop goal Goode. Wasps: Try Voyce; Conversion Van Gisbergen; Penalty Van Gisbergen.

Leicester: S Vesty; A Healey (A Tuilagi, 60), O Smith, D Gibson (D Hipkiss, 63-69), G Murphy (Hipkiss, 69); A Goode, H Ellis (S Bemand, 69); D Morris (M Holford, 60), G Chuter (J Buckland, 60), J White, M Johnson (capt, Chuter, 71-78), B Kay, H Tuilagi (W Johnson, 31), N Back, L Deacon.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, A Erinle, J Lewsey (J Mbu, 69), T Voyce; A King (J Brooks, 55), M Dawson (W Fury, 69); T Payne, P Greening (T Leota, 59), W Green (A McKenzie, 69), S Shaw, R Birkett (M Purdy, 55), J Worsley (J Hart, 59), T Rees, L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).

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