Van Gisbergen steps forward to invigorate Wasps as Leeds run out of luck

Wasps 33 Leeds 10
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The Independent Online

The sting is back in Wasps. If they did not quite look like the champions they are, then they were certainly an improvement on their opening match against Harlequins.

They took their time, though, as not until the second half did they manage to impose themselves and even then they had to see off the ferocious Leeds Tykes.

Both teams were lacking key personnel, and not all through international calls either. Leeds were without their captain, Mike Shelley, the lock Tom Palmer and the scrum-half Clive Stuart-Smith.

For Wasps only Alex King was absent, although had he been fit he would not have been available since he would have been with England. But the stand-in stand-off Mark van Gisbergen did not let the side down, racking up 23 points including a well-worked try.

Nothing seemed to go right for luckless Leeds. In fact, at times after the interval it seemed that everything was against the Tykes. Every time one of their number launched a counter-offensive and broke clear, he would be whistled up for something or other.

There were too many penalties and too many stoppages overall, which accentuated the untidiness of both sides, especially in the opening half.

Thank heavens, then, for Liam Botham, who at least provided one bright spot in an otherwise scrappy first period. The dual-code back was spot-on with his geometry, running an acute angle that opened up the home defence. And when he was eventually confronted by a couple of Wasps, the former Newcastle player had Dan Scarborough up on his left shoulder to finish off the move.

Leeds were strangely subdued up front. A pack that had been so well organised in last season's campaign, lacked the cohesion called for here. Last year, when they were trailing 27-6, the Yorkshiremen had fought back brilliantly and forced a 27-27 draw.

There was no chance of history repeating itself yesterday. The turning point came three minutes into the second half when the Wasps captain correctly anticipated the direction and destination of a Duncan Hodge pass and intercepted it before haring upfield.

When, 10 minutes later, Van Gisbergen combined beautifully with the centre Fraser Waters, who had a fine match, to score Wasps' second try the game was as good as over.

Leeds tried to hit back but the home cover proved too miserly, or they fell foul of officialdom. The late try by the replacement scrum-half, Peter Richards, following a tapped free-kick to himself merely underlined the difference between the two teams.

Wasps: Tries Howley, Van Gisbergen, Richards; Conversions Van Gisbergen 3; Penalties Van Gisbergen 4. Leeds: Try Scarbrough; Conversion Hodge; Penalty Walsh.

Wasps: T Voyce; S Roiser, F Waters, M Denney (A Erinle, 53), J Rudd; M van Gisbergen, R Howley (capt, P Richards, 73); C Dowd, P Greening (T Leota, h-t), W Green (T Payne, 48), S Shaw (M Purdy, 62), R Birkett, I Clarke, M Lock (J Hart, 66), J O'Connor (P Volley, 66).

Leeds: M Cardey; D Rees, D Scarbrough, L Botham, P Christophers; D Hodge (T Walsh, 59), A Dickens (M Chester, 19); G Powell, R Rawlinson (capt), M Holt (M Cusack, 80), S Morgan, S Hooper, M Salter (J Panton, 36-h-t and 54), C Rigney, D Hyde.

Referee: S Lander (Warrington).