London Irish 16 Wasps 22: Walder seizes rare moment as shoddy lrish pay penalty

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The Independent Online

Life has not been that kind to Dave Walder. Unwanted by Newcastle at the end of last season, Jonny Wilkinson's perpetual understudy moved to Wasps – to become No 2 to another England fly-half, Danny Cipriani. But Walder is a fighter. He has a 100 per cent return from goal kicks in the last two Premiership matches, yesterday's perfect six matching last weekend's flawless half-dozen.

"He has had a rough time," said Ian McGeechan, the Wasps director of rugby, after watching his side maintain their momentum in front of a Premiership record crowd of 23,709 at the Madejski Stadium. "He has been told to do this and that and he has responded well. Now I think he has more confidence in his game than ever before."

Walder's excellence was not just confined to kicks at goal either. He drilled a couple of wonderful touch kicks downfield gaining 60 or 70 yards at a time, and it was his brilliant break and offload which sent in Riki Flutey for Wasps crucial try early in the second half.

Although London Irish came back to scrounge a losing bonus point with their second try there was an element of luck to the score. Referee Rob Debney and his touch judges must have been the only people in the ground who did not see the knock on at the start of the move which ended with Sailosi Tagicakibau steaming in after a stunning break by Topsy Ojo.

Wasps reckoned that the Exiles first try was a soft one as well, although that is a little harsh. There were two superb offloads, one by the hooker David Paice and the other by centre Seilala Mapusua, who had a magnificent game, as they helped send full-back Peter Hewat over on the left.

With just one kickable penalty before the interval which fly-half Eoghan Hickey converted Irish were unable to take the lead into half-time. Walder nudged Wasps in front with the last kick of the half and there they stayed. They were helped by managing to avoid falling foul of the referee at the breakdown and by the end had conceded just two more penalties, the second of which by Hickey brought a bonus point.

Irish could not seem to do anything right at the breakdown or scrum and they gave away a dozen kicks and a total of five goals to Walder, who has now scored 36 points in the last two games. His form presents a challenge to the returning Cipriani, and winger Tom Voyce is also close to fitness after injury.

Irish also have someone on the mend. Shane Geraghty, their brilliant fly-half, is now just three weeks away from his comeback following a knee injury. Brian Ashton will be spoiled for choice come the summer tour to New Zealand.

London Irish: Tries Hewat, Tagicakibau; Penalties Hickey 2. Wasps: Try Flutey; Conversion Walder; Penalties Walder 5.

London Irish: P Hewat; T Ojo, G Tiesi, S Mapusua, S Tagicakibau; E Hickey, W Fury (P Hodgson, 56); C Dermody, D Paice, F Rautenbach (T Lea'aetoa, 69), N Kennedy, R Casey (capt), S Armitage, D Danaher, J Leguizamon (R Thorpe, 80).

Wasps: J Lewsey; M van Gisbergen (C Bishay, 78), F Waters (D Waldouck, 72), R Flutey, D Doherty; D Walder, M McMillan; T Payne, J Ward, T French, G Skivington, T Palmer, J Hart (D Leo, 80), J Worsley (R Webber, h-t), L Dallaglio (capt).

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).