King kicks Irish where it hurts

Wasps 35 - London Irish 26
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The Independent Online

This was something of a cold shower for London Irish, so the unscripted intervention of a pitchside sprinkler at the Exiles' end late in the game was apposite. They had just flushed a realistic chance of victory down the drain, as Wasps recovered from falling 10 points behind within a quarter of an hour to being able to whinge about not getting a bonus point for a fourth try.

Having worked so well for that early lead Irish's discipline let them down and by half-time the home side were only a point adrift thanks to the boot of Alex King. Even when Wasps then lost John Hart for 10 minutes for killing the ball the Exiles were unable to take advantage, indeed the 14 men managed to score when the flanker Johnny O'Connor charged down Barry Everitt's clearance and followed up to flop on the ball, which had bounced cruelly for the defence.

It was the turning point. King landed a drop goal, Tom Voyce was put through for a well-taken try and the sprinkler came on. It did not herald a flood of Wasps points, but Ayoola Erinle then crossed for a third and final try, the only one converted by King.

All that was left was a consolation score, and a second try of the match, for Irish's Australian full-back Scott Staniforth, whose sucker punch of a try had opened up a slack Wasps defence in the 13th minute, when he raced up from deep on to Everitt's thoughtful pass and sliced through a dumbfounded defence.

There was enterprise in his second score, but it could not even bring Irish to within bonus point-distance of their hosts. Little wonder that their head coach, Gary Gold, was in a less than pleasant frame of mind afterwards. "It was a very poor performance," he said. "Having established a 10-point lead, we threw the game away."

Unsurprisingly, his opposite number Warren Gatland was a happy man, at least about the result. "I am pleased with the way a few of the younger players performed," he said. He did express disappointment at missing out on a four-try bonus point, though, and was fairly critical about the treatment by England of his scrum-half Matt Dawson, who was left out of the national training squad because he had a prior engagement with the BBC's A Question of Sport .

"I think he could have been accommodated, given what he has done for England," said Gatland. "We did not get back from Leeds until 3.30 last Monday morning and none of the players trained that day. I expect to see him play for England again. I don't think you can leave quality players out. The door has been left open for him."

That said, if England's acting head coach Andy Robinson does ignore Dawson from now on, it leaves Wasps as sole beneficiaries of his services, a situation with which Gatland would be very happy indeed.

Wasps: Tries O'Connor, Voyce, Erinle; Conversion King; Penalties King 5; Drop goal King. London Irish: Tries Staniforth 2; Conversions Everitt, Mapletoft; Penalties Everitt 4.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; M Priscott, A Erinle, P Richards (R Hoadley, 68), T Voyce; A King (J Brooks, 78), M Dawson; A McKenzie (H Nwume, 60), P Greening (B Gotting, 60), T Payne, J Hart (G Skivington, 56), R Birkett, M Lock (L Dallaglio, 60), J Worsley (capt), J O'Connor.

London Irish: S Staniforth; P Sackey, N Mordt, M Catt, J Bishop (M Horak, 39); B Everitt (M Mapletoft, 60), P Hodgson; N Hatley, R Russell, R Hardwick (P Durant, 27), N Kennedy, R Casey, R Strudwick (capt; P Murphy, 76), K Roche (D Danaher, 56), K Dawson.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).