King spoils Flutey's impressive debut

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The Independent Online

Flutey showed no sign of jet lag and, three weeks after his fellow New Zealander Mark van Gisbergen fulfilled the qualification criteria which enabled him to be called into the England squad last week, Flutey, 25, displayed enough verve to suggest that English-born players will have some serious competition in 2008 if he stays.

Yet both Kiwis were upstaged by an England-born fly-half, Alex King, who has long been cast out in the international wilderness with just five caps to his name.

King, now 30, has enjoyed four championship titles with Wasps and has won a further four medals in various European and domestic knock-out competitions.

He needed a bare five minutes when he came on as a replacement for James Brooks to show why he could still offer Andy Robinson's England a cutting edge.

Wasps were trailing by two points after the fleet-footed Irish academy player Topsy Ojo, a 20-year-old Tottenham-born winger, had won the chase to Delon Armitage's 71st-minute cross kick.

Wasps countered and found themselves camped outside the Irish 22. King dropped back into the pocket and when the ball was spun out to him he thumped over a drop goal from 35 metres.

There were 78 minutes on the clock and it looked all over. For good measure, though, Van Gisbergen landed his fifth penalty in the third of nine minutes of added time.

It was a shame for Irish, because throughout the first half they had dominated the line-out and prevailed in the scrums, although sadly much of that precious possession was turned into unforced errors out wide, and only Flutey's left foot kept them ahead.

When Wasps re-emerged after the interval they competed up front, to the point of nicking a line-out, and gradually they overhauled the Exiles, dogging it out in a very physical encounter but always prepared to unleash their potent backs at the merest glimpse of space.

There was little consolation for Irish, except perhaps the fact that Flutey left the field with a 100 per cent goal-kicking record.

Van Gisbergen stained his own record by failing to convert the scrum-half Eoin Reddan's 42nd-minute try. It was the full-back's second missed kick in 34 attempts so far this season.

London Irish: Tries Geraghty, Ojo; Conversions Flutey 2; Penalties Flutey 4. Wasps: Tries Reddan, O'Connor; Conversion Van Gisbergen; Penalties Van Gisbergen 5; Drop goal King.

London Irish: D Armitage; S Staniforth; R Penney, S Geraghty, J Bishop (T Ojo, 40); R Flutey, P Hodgson; M Collins (N Hatley, 67), D Paice, R Hardwick, R Casey (capt; R Strudwick, 40), N Kennedy, P Gustard, D Danaher (P Murphy, 14-18), J-M Leguizamon (Murphy, 67).

Wasps: M van Gisbergen, P Sackey, F Waters (J Lewsey, 61), A Erinle, T Voyce; J Brooks (A King, 73), E Reddan (M Dawson, 65); T Payne, B Gotting (J Barrett, 69), P Bracken (J Dawson, 24-33; 63-70), J Hart (capt), R Birkett, J Worsley, J O'Connor, M Lock.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).