Leeds 28, London Wasps 45: Voyce does the trick as Wasps head for home
Sunday 11 May 2008
There were seven minutes of stoppage time here, but Wasps had to wait a further two and a half minutes to discover whether they had a home semi-final.
The result from Kingsholm saw smiles break out on the faces of Wasps' supporters and their players, who will now face Bath in Wycombe next Sunday. As for Leeds, the cheers for them resounded around Headingley. They went out with heads held high, having contributed to an exciting, open match which contained nine tries.
The match marked the end of Leeds's Stuart dynasty, with captain Stuart Hooper and coach Stuart Lancaster moving on – the former to Bath, the latter to the Rugby Football Union, where he will be head of elite player development. It was also the Wasps captain Lawrence Dallaglio's final appearance on this ground. And, of course, relegated Leeds were bidding farewell to the top flight.
Wasps were hit by the late withdrawal of Dominic Waldouck, whose place in the centre was taken by Fraser Waters, and the visitors were also hit by three penalties kicked by Alberto Di Bernardo in the opening 18 minutes.
Although Wasps scored a try with their first coherent assault, at the end of the first quarter, they were looking unconvincing. Tom Voyce was the scorer, the wing getting possession from close range and looking as if he were wading through treacle as he made his way over the line with a defender or two clinging on to him.
Jeremy Staunton, the Wasps fly-half converted the try, but the Londoners' – and Staunton's – joy was short-lived. A few minutes later the Irish No 10 launched a pass out to his right on the Leeds 22 and the alert Tom Biggs, Leeds's prolific left winger, intercepted and scorched upfield to score under the posts and give Di Bernardo a very simple conversion.
Wasps, who were beginning to look a lot better organised and disciplined, retained their composure and began to construct some lovely passages of play, applying pressure to the home defence. Staunton kicked a penalty to put his side within touching distance and then, with half-time approaching, Voyce was sent clear. He stepped outside, then cut inside to leave Leigh Hinton on his knees. The Cornishman scored his and Wasps' second try.
In added time a brilliant break by Riki Flutey split the defence open and Waters was on hand to slice through the tattered remnants of the cover for a try that lifted Wasps well clear. Staunton converted this try, as he had Voyce's second.
With the second half not 10 minutes old, Wasps secured their all-important try-scoring bonus point. Mark McMillan, their replacement scrum-half, scooped up the ball at a ruck and shaped to pass, but he changed his mind and instead cut inside the oncoming defenders to burst clear. Having drawn the rest of the Leeds cover he passed inside to the rampaging French hooker Raphaël Ibanez, who thundered over the line. That started a punch-counter punch sequence, with Leeds hitting back through Scott Armstrong, Wasps promptly replying through their replacement hooker, Joe Ward, and Hendre Fourie somehow muscling his way through a tangle of bodies for Leeds.
Voyce had the last word though, knifing through a shattered defence to complete his hat-trick in the 78th minute of the match.
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