Leicester 34 London Wasps 24: Tigers are too Goode but Cipriani still shines
Wasps did a real number on Leicester in the final of the Heineken Cup last season, and as both teams have made premature exits from Europe's blue riband event this season, this match took on extra clout.
The prize was a place in the final of the EDF Energy Cup at Twickenham on 12 April, and it was won in emphatic style by the Tigers, by four goals and two penalties to two goals and two tries. The main difference was the line-out; such a goldmine for Wasps in the 2007 Heineken final, it was a major source of embarrassment here.
Leicester would not have been displeased to discover that Simon Shaw, Wasps' main jumper, had aggravated an injury before the start. His absence, if not conclusive, was certainly influential. On their own throw, Wasps had no idea whether they would win the ball and, consequently, winning the match was beyond them.
There were four tries each in an excellent advertisement for the Guinness Premiership but Leicester, the defending champions – they beat the Ospreys 41-35 in last April's final – won the fight for possession and it enabled Andy Goode to take the man-of-the-match award ahead of Danny Cipriani.
Goode, the Premiership'sall-time leading points-scorer, contributed 19 points here with four conversions, two penalties and a try. He also laid on a try for Danny Hipkiss with a Cipriani-like chip as Shaun Edwards' famous blitz defence was nullified. Not that Cipriani was exactly overshadowed. The toast of England last week, the 20-year-old stand-off scored two tries to make a full contribution to the entertainment.
Wasps barely touched the ball in the first quarter yet led after Cipriani, with a change of pace, eluded Hipkiss and Johne Murphy for a classic fly-half's try. The Tigers went 12-6 down after 31 minutes when Eoin Reddan broke on the blind side of a scrum to send in Paul Sackey for a spectacular score.
But before half-time and shortly after it Leicester's strength and pace had their just rewards. From a twisted scrum Goode was able to cut inside and score at the posts, giving his side a one-point lead at the interval. He was just warming up. A quickly taken penalty by the Tigers' stand-off allowed Hipkiss and Tom Varndell to work Seru Rabeni over for another refreshing try, and after Cipriani had badly missed a penalty attempt, Wasps lost another line-out, which resulted in Goode creating Hipkiss's try.
After 56 minutes Leicester had opened up a 27-12 lead but they were not allowed to relax. Sackey scored his second try in the 61st minute, thanks in part to a brilliant offload under pressure by Cipriani, who managed to flick on a pass with the breath of a Tiger in his face.
However, any hopes that Wasps had were snuffed out after 67 minutes when Martin Castrogiovanni crossed for one of the great prop tries. The Argentinian who plays for Italy dived with the grace of a hippo.
Trailing 34-17 and with nothing to play for but pride, Wasps continued to play their part, and five minutes from the end Sackey and Cipriani dovetailed down the right for the latter to score his second try. Cipriani, though, could not manage so much as a smile. He knew the game was up.
Leicester: J Murphy; T Varndell, S Rabeni, D Hipkiss, A Tuilagi; A Goode (S Vesty, 76), H Ellis; B Stankovich (M Ayerza, 44), G Chuter (B Kayser, 73), M Castrogiovanni (J White, 71), L Deacon, B Kay, T Croft, M Corry (capt), B Herring (J Crane, 48).
London Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sackey, F Waters (D Waldouck, 65), R Flutey, D Doherty (D Walder, 57); D Cipriani, E Reddan (M Macmillan, 71); T Payne, R Ibanez (J Ward, 71), P Vickery (T French, 72), G Skivington, T Palmer (R Birkett, 73), J Hart (D Leo, 62), L Dallaglio (capt), J Haskell.
Referee: N Owens (Wales).
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