After 57 minutes at the Madejski Stadium on this dry and crisp autumn afternoon, Wasps had yet to score a point. Indeed they were 10-0 down against the league’s bottom team, London Irish, having conceded an interception try, which was gratefully accepted by the Irish’s Alex Lewington, just 5 minutes earlier and were looking ragged.
Surely the unthinkable could not happen? After all, Worcester had only gone and won at Leicester already this weekend and another big upset looked as though it could be on the cards.
Up to this point, whilst Wasps had been strong in defence, they had been extremely careless with the ball in hand, making error after error and being turned over on a regular basis. They played with little structure or purpose to their game, creating no field position and were not able to build any momentum. It appeared as though they thought that all they had to do was turn up and that they would win the match. It so nearly cost them dear.
Yet then things changed. At last a good attacking position for Wasps, a line out near the Irish line, a clean take and drive and a try for none other than Ashley Johnson, who else, the master of the rolling maul.
Effervescent Dan Robson replaced the disappointing Joe Simpson at scrum half and Danny Cipriani then returned following from ten weeks out with injury. What a difference they both made.
The match suddenly had a different feel. Although the Irish did add another penalty to extend their lead, Robson was now probing around the fringes and Cipriani was now prompting and cajoling the previously malfunctioning Wasps backline. Within moments, some slick handling down the short side led to Willie Le Roux putting Josh Bassett into space and he sprinted down the touchline to score from distance.
Four minutes later and another long range Wasps score. This time Robson broke the line to race clear and Nizaam Carr, the recently recruited number 8 from the Stormers / Western Province, was on his shoulder to take the final pass. Three tries in ten minutes and the turnaround was surely complete. Not quite game over as, with Wasps’ propensity to be turned over, the Irish could not be completely discounted. However, whilst they battled gamely throughout the match, they did lack spark from an attacking perspective and Wasps saw the game out relatively comfortably.
Wasps would have liked a bonus point try but in the end, their final attacks again lacked accuracy, so they had to settle for just the 4 points. It could be argued that they did not really deserve any more and that they were actually quite fortunate to come away with a victory.
For the Irish, they were spirited and competed well and, with fly half Tommy Bell putting his side into good positions, they are not without hope. However, for all their possession and territory, they lack dynamism in attack and never really threatened the Wasps try line, bar the interception. It could be a long winter for them and their long suffering supporters clearly think so, with less than 8,000 in the Madejski to watch what was once a London derby. Disappointing times.
For Wasps, they stuttered and stumbled but ultimately they got out of jail, just. A full strength Leicester will not be so accommodating next week.