Leicester 17 Wasps 22: Healey sets off the fireworks after damp squib from Dallaglio and Corry

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The Independent Online

The whole day had been billed as a double-header, but there were enough battles going on within the opening Powergen Cup semi-final tie in Cardiff on Saturday to satisfy any supporter.

For starters, there was the much-publicised heavyweight bout between Martin Corry and Lawrence Dallaglio, captains of the two clubs and rivals for the England No 8 shirt. It provided less drama than had been expected.

Just below that billing, though, was a bantamweight contest featuring the scrum-halves Matt Dawson and Austin Healey. The result left little doubt about the winners of either contest, but Leicester's Healey, a former England scrum-half, was especially down after the match.

"I was really looking forward to this game," said the 32-year-old, who will retire from full-time rugby at the end of the season but will still be available to the Tigers on a part-time basis next year. "[I was] trying to get to Twickenham almost as an opportunity to wave goodbye."

He probably also felt he had a point to prove to one of the present England scrum-halves, Dawson, especially since Healey had appeared to accuse him of being past his sell-by date - the Tiger being more than a year Dawson's junior - in the run-up to this match.

"I did not say Dawson does not deserve to be in the England squad," Healey insisted. "I said to a local reporter, with tongue in cheek, 'I can't believe Dawson's in the England squad'. Someone behind us recorded the remark and all of a sudden it is out on the wires."

Healey said he had received a text message from Dawson on Saturday morning in response to one of his own explaining how the remark was misinterpreted and inviting Dawson to call him. Healey would not reveal its contents, but clearly Dawson had failed to see anything amusing in the Leicester man's comments.

The Dallaglio-Corry rivalry, sparked by the latter's replacement by the former in two of England's three Six Nations matches, was not much in evidence. Photographs apparently showing the Leicester man throwing a punch at his Wasps counterpart were dismissed by Dallaglio, who reckoned that if that had been the case it was possibly because he had hold of Corry's shirt and thus deserved such retaliation.

Healey added: "Much of the stuff that's going on between Cozza and Lol is speculation. Having said that, if I had been England coach I would not have been bringing off my captain in consecutive games."

The real subject of the tie was a fierce inter-club rivalry and what was at stake - a guaranteed place in next season's Heineken Cup - should either side win the final. And here Healey was far more forthcoming.

"It's no secret that as teams we don't really get on. I suppose it's because of the rivalry," he explained. "You usually put the word 'friendly' in front of that, but not in this case."

That all went to produce a ferocious game abounding in tension, error and dramatic moments. Jeremy Staunton's boot kept Wasps in the match after their regular goal-kicker Mark van Gisbergen had dropped to the bench on suffering a back spasm in the warm-up. The Irishman coolly took over the onerous role of principal kicker.

There was little consolation for Leicester in outscoring Wasps by three tries to one, though it was at least evidence of their willingness to play a wide game.

Wasps, and Staunton, were efficient in the first half, but it was disappointing that their backs, some of the quickest in the Premiership, could not find a way through the Leicester defence in the way that the Tigers' own speed merchants, Tom Varndell and Leon Lloyd, had pierced the Wasps cover either side of half-time.

Not until the match had moved into added time did Wasps finally break through, and even then it took a Leicester mistake to let them in. The Tigers full-back Sam Vesty could not hold on to Andy Goode's hard, chest-high pass, Raphael Ibañez, the born-again France hooker, pounced on the rebound and offloaded to Fraser Waters, who sent Ayoola Erinle away from 75 metres.

Leicester piled on the pressure, but Wasps were firm on their own line. When they were eventually breached, Dan Hipkiss being driven over for the third try, there was too little time left for the Tigers to claw back victory from Wasps' grasp.

The win sets up Wasps' third meeting this season with the Llanelli Scarlets. Having been in the same Heineken Cup pool, where they each won their home match, the two clubs will meet again in the Powergen Cup final at Twickenham on Sunday 9 April.

Leicester: S Vesty; G Murphy, D Hipkiss, L Lloyd, T Varndell; A Goode, A Healey (H Ellis, 69); G Rowntree (M Holford, 80), G Chuter, J White, L Deacon, B Kay (L Cullen, 80), H Tuilagi (S Jennings, 38), L Moody, M Corry (capt).

Wasps: T Voyce; J Lewsey F Waters, S Abbott (J Brooks, 71), A Erinle; J Staunton, E Reddan (M Dawson, 71); A McKenzie (J Dawson, 53-80), R Ibañez, T Payne (J Dawson, 80), S Shaw (G Skivington, 80), R Birkett, J Worsley, J O'Connor (J Haskell, 69), L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

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