More woe for Wasps as pressure grows on Melville

Wasps 15 London Irish 20
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The Independent Online

Wasps' season grows grimmer by the week. The buzz that had taken them to the league championship in 1997, into runners-up spot last year and to two Cup wins recently is little more than a muted hum these days. They are now locked on the bottom of the Zurich Premiership and caught on the end of a run of six consecutive defeats, four of them in the league.

Little wonder that Nigel Melville, the London club's director of rugby, admitted last night that his job was on the line. "The vultures have been circling all week," admitted the former England captain, who has been in charge at Wasps for the last six years.

He added that he had seen Wasps' owner, Chris Wright, last week, but declined to say whether he had been given the dreaded vote of confidence or an ultimatum. What he would say was: "He did not reassure me that everything was OK, because everything is not OK. Rugby is now like soccer. If there are no points then there is no job by November. My job is on the line."

The same might be true of a few of their players. Countless chances went begging in an improved second-half performance, but in the first half they did not even get that far.

There were also some unsettling decisions by Welsh referee Nigel Williams. In the 63rd minute, when Williams awarded London Irish a penalty, Melville raced up the touchline, clearly unhappy because the referee had ignored his touch judge Stuart Terheege's flag and advice that an Exile hand had pulled the ball back on to their side illegally.

Barry Everitt made no mistake with the kick and Irish pulled a further three points ahead. "That came at a crucial time for us," Melville said. "I don't know why the referee did not listen to his touch judge."

Had it not been for Kenny Logan's goal-kicking Wasps would have been out of it far earlier. Their lack of focus on the field is only matched by their lack of key personnel. They have lost the best part of their back row. Joe Worsley may offer a great deal, but the aggression of Paul Volley and the streetwise experience and talent of Lawrence Dallaglio are priceless in times of crisis, and that is what confronts Wasps.

As Melville pointed out: "We now travel to Bristol next week losing further players to England. It just gets tougher." They also lost their full-back, Josh Lewsey, with a suspected fractured jaw after a first-half clash.

Irish, in contrast, are sitting pretty in the top three of the Premiership. Things are slowly coming good for them, including Paul Sackey. His try was not exactly a classic winger's effort, but the determination was there.

The score came about thanks to a brilliant break by Justin Bishop, who combined superbly with Michael Horak deep inside the Wasps 22. With Everitt's assured kicking and the odd slice of refereeing luck, coupled with a magnificent defence, they did enough to deserve victory.

Wasps: Penalties Logan 5. London Irish: Try Sackey; Penalties Everitt 4; DG Everitt.

Wasps: J Lewsey (L Scrase, 21); P Sampson, F Waters, M Denney (capt), K Logan; A King, M Wood; C Dowd, T Leota (P Greening, 72), W Green (D Molloy, 62), S Shaw (J Beardshaw, 72), I Jones, M Lock, J Worsley, R Jenkins.

London Irish: M Horak; P Sackey, R Hoadley, B Venter, J Bishop (J Cunningham, 57); B Everitt, D Edwards; M Worsley (N Hatley, 47), N Drotske (R Kirke, 47-54 and 74-80), S Halford (R Hardwick, 47), R Strudwick (capt), J Fahrensohn, J Cockle (E Halvey, 63), C Sheasby, D Danaher.

Referee: N Williams (Neath).

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