The English Midlands’ newest derby brought out some traditional Leicester spirit and bludgeoning defence that would have been almost universally admirable without the first-half red card shown to their centre Seremaia Bai for a ludicrously violent charge on his fellow Fijian, the Wasps No 8 Nathan Hughes.
There was also an arguably late tackle by another Fijian, the Leicester wing Niki Goneva, that forced off Wasps’ resurgent former England scrum-half Joe Simpson with a twisted knee, though it was seen by referee Wayne Barnes and went unpenalised. Otherwise Leicester’s increasingly vocal minority in the Premiership’s record crowd for a regular home venue justifiably cheered three tries to none by their Tigers, whose director of rugby Richard Cockerill looked close to tears at the end.
The result left Coventry’s new residents Wasps out of reach of the end-of-season play-offs, while Leicester, who failed to make the final last May for the first time in 10 years, gave Cockerill valuable respite from recent criticism. Only Bath and Northampton have a better away record in the league, and Leicester will be on the road if they make the top four. To do so, they may need to win the much more established derby with Northampton next Saturday.
“Our effort and attitude to defend was outstanding,” said Cockerill. “The players have answered a lot of questions today.”
His Wasps counterpart Dai Young has always maintained that the play-offs were likely to be beyond his team, but they look well set for sixth place, which represents European Champions Cup qualification, and they were delighted to welcome England forward Joe Launchbury back from a six-month lay-off for a galloping 25 minutes or so.
The relentless collisions as Leicester took the initiative to lead 18-12 with tries by Niall Morris and last season’s Premiership leading scorer Goneva – the latter’s sixth of the current campaign – took their toll. Leicester’s England lock Geoff Parling went off in the 21st minute with what Cockerill said to some observers’ surprise was a popped rib cartilage. It occurred just after Parling had returned to the field from needing a head injury assessment, which was a worrying sight, considering he spent three months’ resting earlier this season due to concussion.
Andy Goode’s fourth penalty of the opening half came after Bai launched himself horizontally into a tame-looking ruck where he hit Hughes – who has hopes of playing for England next year – with his forearm an instant before clashing heads. Referee Barnes initially issued Bai a yellow card until the television match official Sean Davey intervened to prompt a revised verdict of red.
With 14 men, Leicester kept contesting the ball led by the brilliant Julian Salvi, kept scrummaging hard to win penalties and kept targeting Hughes and denying Christian Wade space out wide. Adam Thompstone’s try in the corner, made by Freddie Burns’s thrust into the Wasps 22, was Leicester’s killer move in the 72nd minute.
Wasps: A Masi (R Miller, 73); C Wade, E Daly, A Leiua, S Tagicakibau; A Goode (R Lozowski, 73), J Simpson (C Davies, 49); M Mullan (S McIntyre, 73), C Festuccia (T Lindsay, 67), L Cittadini (W Taylor, 73), J Gaskell, K Myall (J Launchbury, 53), A Johnson, J Haskell (capt), N Hughes (G Thompson, 73).
Leicester: N Morris; A Thompstone, M Tait (C Loamanu, 67), S Bai, V Goneva (T Bell, 6); F Burns, B Youngs (capt, S Harrison, 61); L Mulipola (M Ayerza, 51), T Youngs, D Cole, B Thorn (E Slater, 61), G Kitchener, G Parling (J Gibson, 20), J Salvi, J Crane.
Referee: W Barnes (London).
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies