Wasps take advantage of weak Tigers

Wasps 26 Leicester 13

By David Llewellyn
Saturday 28 December 2002 01:00
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Two magical moments, two great tries and suddenly Wasps are buzzing again. They rounded off 2002 in style with only their second victory in nine Premiership meetings over Leicester.

It was also the first time for six seasons that Leicester have lost three Premiership matches in a row, prompting their manager Dean Richards to admit: "We have lost our last three matches and that is unacceptable as far as I am concerned. Wasps deserved their win, they were far more physical in contact and slicker in other areas."

His counterpart Warren Gatland, savouring the fact that the four points move them, albeit temporarily, into fourth place in the standings, said: "I told the boys that this had to be the worst Leicester team I have seen, on paper and if we did not win we would have only ourselves to blame.

"Leicester have set the standard for a long time and it is fantastic for the competition that they are no longer the dominant force they were."

The Wasps performance in its turn was a timely reminder to their rivals in the top six that they are finally adding consistency to their obvious talent.

A superb 60th-minute try by Josh Lewsey, when Wasps were down to 14 men after hooker Trevor Leota was sent to the sin-bin for a technical offence, wrested the lead from the Tigers and dispelled any lingering doubts that even against a below-strength Leicester side it was impossible to win.

Quick ball found its way first to the estimable Fraser Waters, then to his centre partner the excellent Stuart Abbott, he in turn slipped the ball out to Lewsey who cut in sharply, recovered well from an ankle tap and found the muscle and momentum to slide over.

Their second and most telling try, which put the match out of reach was a stunning piece of pace and thinking by scrum-half Rob Howley. He received the ball at a ruck, drew prop Darren Garforth one way before stepping swiftly off his left foot, cutting right and hot-footing it into space and over the line.

There was a fair amount of niggle and needle, and there was an unacceptably high penalty count that was nearer the 30-mark than it should have been.

But apart from a spell of around 10 minutes in the first half when Leicester threatened to take charge and run away with the game, the injury-hit Tigers struggled. Perhaps the fact that they had to walk the last three-quarters of a mile to Adams Park because of the traffic congestion had got to them, but those missing from the action included some key players: Austin Healey (Achilles problem) Geordan Murphy (knee) and Martin Corry (hand).

It was during their brief period of dominance that Leicester scored their try. On their five metre line, Martin Johnson took the line-out ball in his usual untroubled fashion and slung out a long pass to Josh Kronfeld. The flanker exploded into space and burst up to the halfway line before shipping to scrum-half Harry Ellis who out-ran Howley and the rest of the napping Wasps. And, unlike his first penalty attempt, Tim Stimpson landed the touchline conversion with no problem. But that and couple of successful penalties from Stimpson was the end of the Tigers' tale.

Wasps: Tries Lewsey, Howley; Conversions King 2; Penalties King 3; Drop goal King. Leicester: Try Ellis; Conversion Stimpson; Penalties Stimpson 2.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, F Waters, S Abbott, J Rudd; A King, R Howley; C Dowd (A Kershaw, 51), T Leota, W Green, S Shaw, R Birkett, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley.

Leicester: T Stimpson; J Holtby (G Raynor, 79), O Smith, R Kafer, F Tuilagi (G Gelderbloom, h-t); S Vesty, H Ellis (T Tierney, 49); D Jelley (F Tournaire, 62), D West, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, W Johnson, A Balding, J Kronfeld (N Back 62).

Referee: D Pearson (Ashington).

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