Wasps 22 Perpignan 14: Kicking King keeps Wasps in race

Click to follow

A better day all round for Lawrence Dallaglio, who returned to Adams Park to lead Wasps to within touching distance of a place in the quarter-finals. On Wednesday he was here to see his beloved Chelsea draw with Wycombe Wanderers in the Carling Cup but his even more beloved Wasps fared somewhat better in the Heineken. After losing to Perpignan 19-12 in France in October, Dallaglio's team could not afford another slip-up and short of gaining a bonus point here the result could hardly have gone better for them.

Thanks to the boot of Alex King and the hands of Dominic Waldouck Wasps got home by a goal and five penalties to a try and three penalties, a perfectly fair reflection of the difference between the sides. Wasps were streetwise, professional and took full advantage of every opportunity; Perpignan, for all their power and ambition, were quite the reverse. The proud Catalan club paid the penalty by making a premature exit from the competition, leaving Castres and Wasps to fight it out for top spot in Pool One next Saturday. Wasps, though, with 19 points in the table, are odds-on to go into the knock-out stages and even a draw in France would put them through.

Ian McGeechan, the Wasps coach, has got some veterans in his pack who have gained invaluable experience in Europe, but what must be whetting his taste buds is the emergence in the threequarter line of two teenagers who may be wet behind the ears but who look as if they have the talent and the temperament to go all the way.

Danny Cipriani is a scrum-capped full-back who looked comfortable in the spotlight here. With precious few openings available he stood out with his sense of adventure, pace and angles of running.

However, it was Waldouck who scored the try that condemned Perpignan to their fate midway through the second half, when he was on to Nicolas Laharrague's kick in a flash and took advantage of a good bounce to score at the posts. High fives all round for Waldouck and Cipriani, who last season were playing for England Under-19s and who are making names for themselves having come through the Wasps academy.

Wasps had half a dozen players from England's elite squad in their starting line-up but they were hugely indebted to a man who no longer warrants international recognition. King was responsible for their half-time lead of 12-3, with an immaculate display of goal-kicking, as in every other regard the defences and big hits reigned.

The stand-off took advantage of an act of petulance by the scrum-half Nicolas Durand, who knocked the ball away after Perpignan had conceded a penalty and gave Wasps an extra 10 yards, putting King within range. He made no mistake. Perpignan levelled a few minutes later with a penalty by Nicolas Laharrague and it was about the only thing that went right for them in the entire half.

When their forwards put together an impressive piece of work they won a penalty which they put into touch, but they then lost possession close to the Wasps line. To make matters worse, they lost the flanker Gregory le Corvec to the sin-bin for interfering with an Eoin Reddan pass. King kicked the resultant penalty and Perpignan's sense of injustice was compounded by the fact that the whole sequence of events stemmed from a Wasps throw at a line-out that was more crooked than a corkscrew.

Perpignan suffered another sucker punch when an attack broke down and Cipriani, displaying rare speed and flair, broke down the left touchline. The upshot was a penalty just inside the French half. King was kicking so beautifully he had to have a go. The wind was so strong that Dallaglio, lying flat out, had to put a finger on the ball but it worked, King's kick going over via the crossbar.

If Wasps were not exactly laughing they were certainly smiling, especially when the hooker Michel Konieck was also shown a yellow card, for playing the ball in a blatantly offside position after Perpignan had a made a mistake in defence.

There were some anxious moments early in the second half when Phil Vickery, the new England captain, recoiled from a ruck, remained stationary and was immediately surrounded by a team of concerned medics. Vickery had taken an elbow to the cheek and was able to resume after regaining his senses. King, meanwhile, made it five out five to increase Wasps' lead to 15-3 and although Nicolas Laharrague responded in kind the Perpignan stand-off's performance was undermined by Waldouck's opportunism. As Laharrague trooped off it became apparent that Perpignan would troop out of the Heineken Cup, despite a late penalty from Steve Meyer and a try for the flanker Ovidiu Tonita.

Wasps: D Cipriani; P Sackey, D Waldouck, J Lewsey, T Voyce; A King, E Reddan (S Amor, 76); T Payne, R Ibañez (J Ward, 76), P Vickery (P Bracken, 76), S Shaw, T Palmer, J Worsley, L Dallaglio(capt), J O'Connor (T Rees, 49).

Perpignan: J Laharrague; C Manas, J-P Grandclaude, G Hume, S Dawai Naulu; N Laharrague (S Meyer, 62), N Durand; P Freshwater(capt), M Konieck (M Tincu, 62), N Mas, C Gaston (R Alvarez-Kareilis, 16), O Olibeau, G le Corvec, G Bortolaso (V Vaki, 66), O Tonita.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

Comments