It was the 10th September when Wasps last tasted victory. They were hungry, desperate even to experience that winning feeling again and after this ultimately comprehensive victory over their longstanding arch rivals, Harlequins, they will feel mightily better this evening.
The scoreline arguably flatttered them but they will not care a jot. A 31 point margin of victory, with five tries to one is a real statement and opens up this pool.
However, this was far from a vintage attacking performance. For much of the game, Wasps struggled for possession, made basic handling errors and chose wrong options. But they defended as though their lives depended upon it and whenever it looked as though Quins might stage a comeback, they were thwarted by a wall of black.
Wasps started off like a train, 14 points to the good after just 8 minutes, Nathan Hughes peeling round the front of a line out at pace and Dan Robson applied the finishing touch. Moments later, Harlequins’ fly half Marcus Smith, who had created such an impression on his last appearance here a few weeks ago, rather telegraphed a cross kick, was charged down by Jimmy Gopperth, Elliot Daly hacked on and Christian Wade showed his pace to beat the covering defence. Ashley Johnson burrowed over from a driving maul after Mike Brown was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on ten minutes before half time to make it 21-3 at the break.
However, such is the fragile state of Wasps’ confidence, following five successive defeats, the game was still very much in the balance. Both teams had their chances in the early stages of the second half yet errors crept in, defences remained strong and Wasps became nervous. Yet pantamime villain Joe Marler came to their rescue, a mindless punch and a yellow card, quickly followed by a Gopperth penalty and any lingering doubts were dispelled.
The increasingly impressive Josh Bassett finished expertly in the corner to secure the bonus point try and Wade added the gloss with an interception try from halfway. Game well and truly over, benches emptied and another chance to see the emerging Wasps back row talent Jack Willis who, with two late turnovers, looks like an heir apparent to James Haskell.
Harlequins had a poor afternoon. Going so many points behind so early in the match meant they were always playing catch up and whilst they looked lively on occasions and threatened to score, the Wasps defence remained resolute. Substitute Francis Saili scored a smartly taken try with his first touch but it was all a little too late. Unfortunately his afternoon was to end on a sour note as he left the field on a stretcher following an awkward tackle on Joe Launcbury. It was that sort of day for Harlequins, much promise yet ultimately no reward.
For Wasps, much relief, and their stuttering season, which could have derailed completely with a defeat today, remains alive. Just.