A hat trick of second half tries by Wasps full back, speedster Marcus Watson saw off a workmanlike Worcester side in this last match in the group stages of the Premiership Cup and brought Wasps some much needed confidence before their opening game of the Premiership season next week.
After a dull turgid first half, enlightened only by the shrill lady on the public address system announcing a successful Wasps conversion by Billy Searle which he actually missed, and which was riddled with handling errors and stoppages, Wasps finally came to light in the opening stages of the second half.
Prompted by captain Dan Robson at scrum half, they played with much greater speed and purpose, which brought with it some deserved rewards. It was a low grubber kick from Robson which set up Watson for his first, diving gleefully under the posts, and the full back followed this up with two more touchdowns, showing off his seering pace and eye for a gap.
Whether Watson will stay at full back, and rekindle the famous tradition of a Watson wearing the Wasps number 15 shirt (note : this writer’s father, Allen Watson, played full back for Wasps in the 1960’s) remains to be seen but on this form he has a very strong case. His ability to appear in various attacking positions was a key feature of this victory. He was deservedly man of the match.
All Black Malakai Fekitoa, making his debut in the black and gold, looks as though he could be a useful addition to the Wasps ranks but whether his old mate Lima Sopoaga lines up beside him at fly half will provide an interesting selection for Wasps boss, Dai Young this coming week.
Sopoaga looked sharp on his arrival, having a hand in two late tries and Billy Searle, the most likely alternative, played brightly again but, based on last season’s form, both candidates could be seen as being a little lightweight if Wasps are to mount a serious challenge this year. Danny Cipriani’s boots were certainly big ones to fill yet his replacements will really have to step up this season.
All Wasps supporters will definitely be hoping and praying that Robson remains fit as the scrum half back up options seem very light following the very unfortunate injury to new signing Ben Vellacott in the Premiership Sevens, his ACL injury likely to keep him out for up to six months.
Fortunately another injury concern, a more recent Wasps legend, Jimmy Gopperth, seems close to a return. On arrival at the Ricoh he was overhead saying to an interested spectator “two weeks and happy days”. Fingers crossed, Wasps do need his undoubted ability and experience to guide and lead the back line.
With very few players on Rugby World Cup duty, it could be a good opportunity for Wasps to start the season with a bang and sneak ahead of some of their rivals but, as always, few injuries and consistency of selection will be key to building confidence and success.
The back row looks promising with fit again Jack Willis putting in a good shift again alongside England discard, Brad Shields, and here they were ably backed up by Sione Vailanu at number 8.
Vailanu hails from the same Tongan school as the Vunipola brothers and he appears a little like a young Billy, with his low centre of gravity and bullocking body strength. After his arrival from Saracens, where he could not break into the first team, he has a new opportunity to build his career at Wasps and on this evidence he is worth keeping an eye on.
For the record, Wasps’ other tries here were scored by hooker Tom Cruse, after a driving maul following a line out in the opening minutes and, in the dying moments, a run in for winger Josh Bassett after a period of sustained Wasps pressure.
All in all a good workout and a positive second half performance for Wasps. Maybe the high pitched shrill of the announcer was a lucky omen after all!