Lawrence Bruno Nero Dallaglio will be leaving the Guinness Premiership at the end of the season and he may, alas, be joined by Leeds. The Yorkshire club have not found life in the top flight anything like as successful as England's second-most capped player and they are propping up the table.
Wasps, the European champions, had one defeat in 10 matches; Leeds had not won away in the top flight since 2005. On form it was no contest; in reality it was as hard as they come. Stuart Lancaster, the head coach of Leeds, had said: "One of the benefits of playing in this competition is that you can't afford to dwell too long on a defeat because another huge challenge is just around the corner."
Leeds did not shirk from the challenge and they out-scored Wasps in the second half. But the defeat, by two goals, a try and two penalties to two goals and a penalty, meant they headed back up north empty-handed. They deserved better.
"We came very close to winning the match and we're disappointed we didn't get anything out of it," Lancaster said. "We've got to keep working hard and believing in ourselves and it will come."
Danny Cipriani, one of a number of Wasps expected to be named in England's elite squad on Wednesday, kicked straightforward penalties in the eighth and 14th minutes but otherwise did not have a distinguished half. The first try arrived in the 20th minute. From an untidy scrum Eoin Reddan got away from the Leeds back row, sold a dummy and drew what was left of the defence before giving an inside pass to Joe Worsley. The England back-rower was playing his first club game of the season after recovering from injury.
Leeds had tackled their hearts out but they conceded a second try on half-time. It all came from a clever drop-out by Riki Flutey which was taken on by Dominic Waldouck, Tom Rees and Josh Lewsey, to within 20 yards of the Leeds line. At that point Cipriani looked to have blown it but he survived a tackle and managed to get a pass out to Fraser Waters, who was lurking on the left wing. Seconds after throwing up his arms in exasperation, the centre was crossing the line.
"That try alone was worth the entry fee," Dallaglio, the captain, said. "We're playing some great stuff but we're lacking the intensity to rack up the points. We were a bit casual but we're winning and I'm happy with our progress." For the record Dallaglio, a one-club man who made his first-team debut in 1993, was making his 326th appearance for Wasps and his 169th in the Premiership. A 50th try for the club remained out of his hands.
Leading 18-3 at half-time, Wasps might have thought they were on easy street, particularly after Lewsey, looking as keen as mustard, scored a third try with a great run. With 33 minutes to go the spectators sat back and waited for a fourth try and a valuable bonus point.
Instead Leeds, who had lost their captain, Stuart Hooper, with a shoulder injury, reshuffled their pack and redoubled their efforts. On 59 minutes they produced a classic of its kind from the front row union, when Tom McGee's chip to the left-hand corner was chased by Tom Biggs only for McGee's fellow prop, Mike MacDonald, to smash his way over instead.
With 10 minutes remaining Wasps saw their lead cut to eight points when Anitele'a Tuilagi of the Samoa-Midlands dynasty well known at Leicester made a barnstorming run to the posts. He was held just short but the scrum-half, Joe Bedford, fought his way over.
The focus now was not on whether Wasps would get a bonus point but if Leeds could complete their comeback. But for an excellent recovery by Paul Sackey the visitors would have scored again, Biggs hacking on after a Wasps attack broke down in midfield. The Leeds wing was impressive in everything he did and if he played for a more fashionable club, he would have a chance of breaking into the England set-up.
Talking of which, Shaun Edwards, the Wasps coach, appears to have rejected an offer to coach the England Saxons in favour of joining his former Wasps colleague Warren Gatland with Wales. Gatland is confident of using Edwards on a part-time basis, although Wasps say that nothing has yet been signed.
Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sackey, F Waters (D Doherty, 57), R Flutey, D Waldouck; D Cipriani (D Walder, 51), E Reddan; T Payne, R Ibanez (J Ward, 51), T French (N Adams, 69), T Palmer, G Skivington, J Worsley (S Shaw, 73), L Dallaglio (capt), T Rees (J Hart, 63).
Leeds: L Hinton (J Hepworth, 54); A Satala, R Vickerman, L Blackett (A Tuilagi, 48), T Biggs; J Brooks (A Di Bernardo, 54), J Bedford; M MacDonald, V Ma'asi, T McGee (M Cusack, 65), S Hooper (capt; P Bouza, 40), E Lund, J Dunbar, A Balding (D Paul, 40), C Clark.
Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).Reuse content