Rees' stunning show ends in injury and stalemate

Wasps 29 Leicester 29
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The Independent Online

Thankfully, Rees had done more in his 48 minutes on the pitch than many achieve in a month. Two excellent tries and a high-quality all-round display made big promises for the not too distant future.

"Tom is very good," said his captain, Joe Worsley, "he is one of the best ball carriers I have seen. He is very quick, powerful and he is very difficult to tackle - he has short, stumpy legs."

Leicester would not disagree, although his second try owed much to his powers of observation as the Leicester defence drifted one way and he shifted up a gear and stepped inside, cutting a great angle to the line.

"He has come on a step from last year," said Ian McGeechan, the Wasps director of rugby. "I've been having chats with Andy [Robinson, the England coach]. I don't think Tom is far away from England, but we don't want him to pick up too many injuries. You need to generate consistency and to do that you have to stay injury-free. But I see him as a future England player."

The initial fears on Saturday evening were that Rees had suffered a fractured right ankle, but they proved groundless.

McGeechan could not stop talking about the youngster. "He is a clever player," he said. "He reads the game well. As a consequence he gets into good positions early. He always seems to be at the right place, where it matters."

Worsley added: "He stands up well in the tackle, but also breaks tackles and he has that burst of pace too. I can see him going all the way."

His presence was certainly missed in the second half of another error-strewn match. The early season rustiness that taints the Premiership every year challenges the usefulness of the many "warm-up" matches which clubs feel obliged to play each summer.

Worsley was fuming about the two soft tries conceded by Wasps. "That was two points dropped. That pass Alex King threw, he knew he should have kicked it." He did not and the Leicester wing Tom Varndell accepted the ball and ran in from 35 metres.

Conditions did not help the handling, as the second half was played pretty much in torrential rain. Thunder and lightning added to the tension, but professionals should be able to cope in all weathers.

If the Tigers fly-half Andy Goode had not lost his footing when taking his fifth penalty, Leicester might have sneaked it. Wasps' Mark van Gisbergen delivered seven out of seven kicks at goal and the two teams expected to set the pace in the Premiership could not be separated - as they were not at the same venue last November.

Worsley suggested that the home side were the more frustrated. Only time will show how costly those two lost points might be.

Wasps: Tries Rees 2; Conversions Van Gisbergen; Penalties Van Gisbergen 5. Leicester: Tries Varndell, Ellis; Conversions Goode 2; Penalties Goode 5.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, F Waters, S Abbott (R Hoadley, 79), T Voyce; A King, E Reddan (M Dawson, 52); T Payne, R Ibañez (B Gotting, 45-56), J Dawson (P Bracken 49), S Shaw (M Lock, 72), R Birkett, T Rees (J Hart, 48), J O'Connor, J Worsley (capt).

Leicester: G Murphy (A Healey, 32-40); A Tuilagi, L Lloyd, D Gibson (R Broadfoot, 77), T Varndell (Healey, 71); A Goode, H Ellis (M Cornwell, 38-40); M Holford, G Chuter, A Moreno (J White, 40), L Cullen (L Deacon, 50), B Kay, B Deacon (L Abraham, 66), S Jennings, M Corry (capt).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).