Wasps, the English champions, put their Heineken Cup campaign back on course last night with a hard-fought 17-12 victory over Celtic Warriors at the Brewery Field in Bridgend.
Wasps, stung by a 14-9 home defeat against the same Pool Six opponents last Sunday, knew that another loss would leave their quarter-final hopes hanging by a thread. But there was to be no repeat, as Lawrence Dallaglio's team silenced a capacity 10,000 crowd to move top of their group, building confidently towards remaining games against the Italian minnows Calvisano and last season's beaten Heineken Cup finalists, Perpignan.
Dallaglio though, who is favourite to replace Martin Johnson as England captain following Johnson's anticipated retirement from Test rugby tomorrow, blotted his copybook.
He was sent to the sin-bin midway through the second period for a late challenge on the full-back Gareth Wyatt as Warriors attempted a counter-attack, and he could have few complaints about the decision.
The Warriors substitute Neil Jenkins booted two of his three penalties while Dallaglio was off, but Wasps had done enough through the full-back Mark van Gisbergen's first-half try and the fly-half Alex King's accurate goalkicking.
King landed four penalties, cancelling out a Jenkins hat-trick and one Ceri Sweeney strike, yet the Warriors left their fightback too late after trailing 17-3.
The Warriors secured a bonus point in defeat, but that was of little comfort following a potentially costly home defeat.
Meanwhile in Pool Two, Toulouse powered to the top of the table and claimed a bonus point in the process, with a convincing 29-11 win over Welsh region Neath-Swansea Ospreys at the Gnoll. It was the Ospreys' fourth successive defeat and they remain pointless at the bottom of the table after a fourth successive defeat.
Toulouse did all the damage with four first-half tries, with their winger Vincent Clerc crossing for a hat-trick. Benoit Baby, the architect of two of Clerc's tries, capped an impressive display with a try of his own.
The Ospreys battled hard to break down the French defence in the second half, but had to settle for Gavin Henson's try which added to his earlier penalties.
* The Celtic Warriors' owner, Leighton Samuel, has called off the region's proposed merger with Cardiff Blues. Samuel said the opposition to the plan from the Blues' largest shareholder, Cardiff Athletic Club has put an end to any possible partnership.
* The coach of the Newport Gwent Dragons, Mike Ruddock, last night ended speculation that he could follow Steve Hansen as Wales coach by announcing he has not applied for the position and pledging his immediate future to the Dragons. But he has not ruled out the possibility of him bidding for the job at a later date.Reuse content