If it is not every day that a Cup semi-final boasts three half-backs who stand an even-money chance of making the cut for a British and Irish Lions tour of world champion territory, it is seriously unusual for a fourth half-back with no realistic prospect of making next year's trip to South Africa to trump the lot of them with a performance of match-winning grandeur.
Andy Goode, the No 10 most selectors go out of their way to forget, has always taken pleasure in reminding them of his existence, and if this 19-point contribution was anything to go by, they will not be rid of him for a while yet.
Goode was playing opposite Danny Cipriani at the weekend, and it cannot be claimed that he caught him on an off day. The Marquis of Mayfair scored two five-pointers, one of them an absolute pearl, and looked positively lethal in open field.
Yet it was the Leicester stand-off who made the decisive plays, striking at important moments either side of the interval and then breaking Wasps' famed "blitz" defence with a Cipriani-esque chip and gather to create the game-busting try for Dan Hipkiss. Largely as a result of these efforts, the EDF Energy Cup holders will face the Ospreys at Twickenham for the second year running.
Assuming the Argentine maestro Juan Martin Hernandez gets his wish and joins Leicester from Stade Français next season, Goode will start the campaign as the second-choice outside-half at Welford Road. (No rugby club on earth – not even one as wealthy as the Tigers – would be happy paying a Hernandez-sized salary while picking an ex-England international ahead of him. And besides, the head coach at Welford Road arrived there from Buenos Aires). Yet Goode continues to make fools of those who would dismiss him as a mere journeyman. He is hardly the most consistent of individuals, yet he has a history of winning major fixtures for his side.
Wasps, out of Europe and far from certain to make the Premiership play-offs despite their recent league form, had two tries to their name when Goode cut a clever line on the full-back Johne Murphy to secure Leicester the half-time lead their forwards had sweated blood to earn. Three minutes into the second period, he tapped a penalty to himself and launched the move from which the Fijian centre Seru Rabeni crossed to the right of the sticks.
Then, just shy of the hour, he unlocked the door for the impressive Hipkiss. There was no way back for the Londoners from there, despite the dozen points they compiled in the final quarter. It was a high-calibre contest all round – the kind Brian Ashton, the England coach, might have appreciated had he been in the mood to attend after a rancid week of Rugby Football Union backbiting. Much of the best work was linked to the two scrum-halves, Eoin Reddan of Wasps and Harry Ellis of Leicester.
Reddan is mining a rich seam of form, to the extent that Peter Stringer's long ownership of the Ireland shirt seems ever more mysterious, while Ellis, back in harness after long-term injury, re-established his credentials as an international-class operator with a single first-half gallop upfield.
It should not be forgotten by those actively seeking Ashton's demise that the second-place finishes in the World Cup and the Six Nations were achieved without the services of the red-rose army's best No 9.
There was also much to admire from Hipkiss, whose season has been in free fall since his appearance off the bench in the World Cup final. He, too, had a hand in three of the Midlanders' four tries – his clever support play was the key to Martin Castrogiovanni's startling wrap-up job eight minutes from the end of normal time, completed with the first known public performance of the triple-salchow belly flop – and while England see him very much as an outside centre, the absence of a kicking game did not appear to hamper him unduly over the course of 80 hard minutes in the inside position.
Leicester were excellent value for their victory, which ensures they still have two shots at a title this season. Their great rivals, meanwhile, are down to the last arrow in the quiver. The Premiership or bust?
Leicester: Tries Goode, Rabeni, Hipkiss, Castrogiovanni; Conversions Goode 4; Penalties Goode 2. Wasps: Tries Cipriani 2, Sackey 2; Conversions Cipriani, Walder.
Leicester: J Murphy; T Varndell, S Rabeni, D Hipkiss, A Tuilagi; A Goode (S Vesty, 82), H Ellis; B Stankovich (M Ayerza, 44), G Chuter (B Kayser, 78), M Castrogiovanni (J White, 51-64 and 76), L Deacon, B Kay, T Croft, B Herring (J Crane, 49), M Corry (capt).
Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sackey, F Waters (D Waldouck, 69), R Flutey, D Doherty (D Walder, 58); D Cipriani, E Reddan (M McMillan, 76); T Payne, R Ibañez (J Ward, 76), P Vickery (T French, 78), G Skivington, T Palmer (R Birkett, 78), J Hart (D Leo, 63), J Haskell, L Dallaglio (capt).
Referee: N Owens (Pontyberem).Reuse content