After their guileless defeat at Stradey Park last week, Wasps' chances of making the quarter-finals of this season's Heineken Cup looked impossible. By reversing that result in such emphatic fashion, with a six-try rout of the Scarlets at the Causeway Stadium yesterday, they are now merely improbable.
It is still mathematically possible for Wasps to progress, but given that unbeaten Toulouse dominate the group the fate of Ian McGeechan's team is not in their own hands, especially as there seems no likelihood of a runner-up going forward from Pool Six.
The Stradey experience really hurt Wasps and there has been more soul searching in this part of the Thames Valley during the last week as there has been within the Liberal Democrat party. So this was a day for Wasps to front up, and they did so magnificently. There were three tries for Tom Voyce and hugely impressive contributions from Alistair McKenzie, Johnny O'Connor and Raphael Ibañez, while Alex King chipped in with the conversions of all six tries, and two penalties. The Scarlets spent most of an uncomfortable afternoon chasing fast-moving shadows.
The Wasps' captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, was full of praise for his team-mates, where before he had been openly critical. "I can unwrap my presents with a smile on my face," he said. "I know we can play a lot better than we did last week. Today we played with passion, emotion and aggression. I think we silenced our critics."
It did not take Wasps long to discover the fluency which has been missing in recent weeks. O'Connor was the first lamp bearer, with a fine effort which Simon Easterby did well to extinguish. Then Simon Shaw took a clean line-out and Ibañez took it on to feed King, whose pop pass to Voyce gave the England wing enough space to score the opening try.
The Scarlets' defensive work was good until Jonathan Mills was sent to the sin bin for persistent infringing, having entered the fray when his captain, Easterby, was hospitalised with a badly gashed right eye. Wasps had by then taken it to 17-0 after Paul Sackey stole away from a ruck, McKenzie made good ground and Josh Lewsey did the rest with a step and a 40-metre burst.
The visitors then received a gift-wrapped try when Shaw was acting as scrum-half at a ruck. His looped pass was accepted by Mathew J Watkins for a try at the posts. Bowen converted. Well, it is Christmas.
Wasps then went through their Scrooge routine, denying the Scarlets any more cheer by mounting a huge line-out drive. Ibañez and Sackey were the double act before George Skivington went solo to claim the try. King's conversion heralded the break at 27-7.
Even when down to 14 men, when McKenzie was shown a yellow card, Wasps had enough momentum to steal two more tries, for Voyce and Ibañez. Voyce then completed his hat-trick before Barry Davies brought the curtain down with a consolation try.
Wasps: Tries Voyce 3, Lewsey, Skivington, Ibañez; Conversions King 6; Penalties King 2. Llanelli Scarlets: Tries MJ Watkins, B Davies; Conversions Bowen, Hercus.
Wasps: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, J Lewsey (A Erinle, 71), S Abbott, T Voyce; A King, E Reddan (M Dawson, 67); A McKenzie, R Ibañez (J Barett, 64), T Payne (J Dawson, 62), S Shaw, G Skivington, J Hart, J O'Connor, L Dallaglio (capt; M Lock, 71).
Llanelli Scarlets: L Byrne (B Davies, 40); M Jones, M J Watkins (C Stuart-Smith, 76), D James, G Evans; G Bowen, D Peel; D Williams, M Rees, J Davies (M Madden, 61), F Louw (I Afeaki, 50), A Jones, S Easterby (capt; J Mills, 20), G Thomas, A Popham.
Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).Reuse content