Wasps moved to within one point of Bath at the top of the Premiership table with a hard-fought if unremarkable victory against Leeds at a sodden Headingley yesterday.
Leeds, not without realistic hopes of reaching the wildcard play offs, were looking to emulate Pertemps Bees, who beat an under-strength Wasps in the Powergen Cup, and they must have had thoughts of a similar upset when Colm Rigney gave them the lead with a driving try from close range at the end of the third quarter. But despite a powerful finish, Leeds didn't deserve to win and can have no complaints about the result.
Once Leeds moved in front, Wasps brought on their big guns - Lawrence Dallaglio, Simon Shaw, Ben Gotting and Craig Dowd - and their scrummage took on a more convincing look. They even managed to steal a ball against the head as Leeds threatened to snatch an unlikely win in the seventh minute of stoppage time.
Wasps' director of rugby, Warren Gatland, was pleased with the result. "We like to move the ball, but this was a very difficult pitch to play on," he said. "But once our big names came on, we were mostly in control."
Wasps opened with two penalties from Mark van Gisbergen before Leeds had a sniff of their line. When they did establish a foothold in enemy territory, Gordon Ross failed miserably with two straightforward penalties. Not only did Ross kick poorly at goal, but his kicking out of hand - so often a strong point of the diminutive outside-half's game - was badly awry. It was no surprise when he was replaced by Duncan Hodge at the break, but Ross's fellow Scot missed with his own first shot at goal, which struck an upright.
Leeds enjoyed a bright passage midway through the first half, though all too often the ball was spilled in contact, especially by the backs. The Tykes forwards did rather better, and it was they who kept Leeds in the game. Far from being intimidated by the Wasps' pack, the home eight gave it a decent shot, with their captain, Tom Palmer, Rigney, Mark Regan and Dan Hyde all punching above their weight. They needed to, or Leeds might have sunk without trace well before the appearance of Dallaglio and company.
But within five minutes of the first five Wasps' replacements coming off the bench, the Leeds' forwards were given their first taste of the extra power now available to the champions and Trevor Leota's try, despite Van Gisbergen missing with the conversion and a late penalty, sealed the match.
Leeds: Try Rigney Conversion Hodge Wasps: Try Leota Penalties M van Gisbergen 2
Leeds: M Cardey (D Scarbrough 40); D Rees, P Chistophers, T Davies, D Albanese; G Ross (D Hodge 40), A Dickens; G Kerr, M Regan (R Rawlinson 66), M Holt (G Powell 66), S Hooper, T Palmer (capt), C Rigney, D Hyde (M Salter 66), A Popham.
Wasps: T Voyce; J Rudd, A Erinle (S Abbott 71), M Denney (capt), K Logan (J Lewsey 71); M van Gisbergen, H Biljon (R Howley 60), T Payne, T Leota (B Gotting 74), W Green (C Dowd 60), M Purdy (S Shaw 60) R Birkett, G Skivington, M Lock (L Dallaglio 60), J Worsley.
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).Reuse content