Wasps comeback in second half to beat Connacht

Wasps completed their pre-season programme with a highly entertaining victory over last season’s Champions Cup opponents, but it took a rousing comeback to claim the win.

40 - 22
Wasps Connacht

Wed 23rd August 2017
7:30 pm

Ricoh Arena Stadium Pre-season Friendly Attendance: 7,134

Fourteen points down, deep into the second half, they claimed the lead with two glorious length-of-the field tries, before late scores from Brendan Macken and Guy Armitage gave them a winning margin which was not a true reflection of the way the game had gone.

The highlight of the opening passage of play came in the shape of a thundering tackle by Nathan Hughes, the impact of which could be heard around the ground. Connacht applied the early pressure, with two penalties setting up attacking lineouts near the right corner. The first drive was stopped in its tracks, but the visitors made the most of the second. It came infield, and was held up just short of the line, but the ball was whipped quickly out to the right and hooker Tom McCartney crashed over in the corner to put his side ahead, in the eighth minute. Craig Ronaldson missed the difficult conversion.

The lead was doubled, four minutes later, when Jack Carty’s perfectly placed kick to the wing was gathered by Rory Scholes, who went over in the right corner. This time, Ronaldson was on target with a superb conversion, to put his side 12-0 ahead.

Wasps were stung into action and immediately produced a threatening attack, which featured a powerful charge by Nathan Hughes and a jinking run by Jimmy Gopperth, before Connacht conceded a penalty. The resultant lineout, near the left corner, set up a series of thrusts, with Guy Thompson coming close before the ball was moved out wide, for Christian Wade to squeeze over in the right corner. Rob Miller’s conversion attempt drifted to the left of the posts.

Dan Robson then showed an impressive turn of pace, from an untidy Connacht lineout, just inside the Wasps 22. The ball bounced towards the touchline, the scrumhalf hacked downfield and his chase put Darragh Leader under pressure, just inside Connacht’s 22.

A driving lineout 15 minutes before halftime almost brought Wasps a second try, but they were penalised at the breakdown, a couple of metres from the posts and an excellent opportunity was lost. Moments later Dan Robson took a quick penalty, just outside the Connacht 22, but a promising attack down the left ended with the ball being lost in contact.

Wasps then set the crowd roaring with a thrilling attack, after Christian Wade made a mark a few metres from the Wasps line. He took a quick tap and passed to Dan Robson, who shaped as if to clear, before throwing a long pass out to the left. The ball reached Marcus Watson, who slipped through a couple of tackles, before passing back infield. Matt Mullan and Jimmy Gopperth continued the attack, taking play over halfway. Wasps now had an overlap on the right, but Gopperth’s pass was intercepted, to prevent an almost certain try.

After a series of penalties led to driving lineouts which were held up short of the line, Wasps opted for the scrum from the next Connacht offence. The first almost produced a try but yielded another penalty. This time the Wasps pack drove the Connacht eight back towards the line, but somehow left the ball behind them and Connacht were able to clear downfield. The half ended with Connacht threatening down the right, but Dan Robson put in an excellent piece of covering, to make a mark a few metres from the line. His kick to touch ended a half in which Wasps had struggled to find any fluency and failed to turn pressure into points.

Connacht started the second half with Jack Carty slipping a tackle to make ground, before launching a dangerous attack which seriously stretched the Wasps defence. A try looked on the cards, before Marcus Watson came off his wing to put in a tackle which forced a knock-on just short of the line. With five minutes of the half gone the pressure was finally turned into points, when replacement Stacey Illi forced his way through a tackle and stretched out to ground the ball for a well-worked try. Steve Crosbie’s conversion took the lead to 19-5. Wasps suffered a further blow directly from the restart, when Gaby Lovobalavu was shown a yellow card for a dangerous challenge.

Despite being a man down Wasps came agonisingly close to a try, when Ashley Johnson lost the ball as he dived over, following a driving lineout near the left corner. Three minutes later another driving lineout in the opposite corner, finally breached the Connacht defence with Tom Cruse applying the finishing touch. Danny Cipriani slotted the conversion to narrow the gap to seven points with 21 minutes left to play, and Lovabavalu back from the sin bin.

Connacht came close to another try when the dangerous Carty slipped through a gap, but the defence managed to scramble back and snuff out the danger. Almost immediately, Connacht won a penalty in front of the posts, and Steve Crosbie put his side ten points clear at 22-12.

A minute later, Wasps produced an early try of the season contender, when they moved the ball quickly from deep inside their own half. Quick passing sent Christian Wade clear just inside the Connacht half and he raced clear for a magnificent score, which Cipriani converted to narrow the gap to just three points.

A minute later Wasps were in front, through another spectacular long-range try. Tom Cruse’s tackle stopped a threatening Connacht attack by dislodging the ball, Brendan Macken gathered and came infield. He combined with Jimmy Gopperth and Joe Simpson was sent haring away down the left. He drew the final defender to send Josh Bassett in for a wonderful score, which Cipriani again converted to give Wasps a 26-22 advantage.

Five minutes from time, Wasps made the game safe with a try from Brendan Macken. They won a lineout inside the Connacht, 22, the ball was moved infield and Danny Cipriani’s beautifully timed pass sent the centre flying through on a perfect line to go over between the posts. Cipriani converted to put Wasps almost out of sight at 33-22.

With the clock at zero Guy Armitage threaded his way through the tiring defence for Wasps’ sixth try, which Danny Cipriani converted to make the final score a slightly flattering 40-22. Despite the win Wasps know that there is plenty to work on, ahead of next week’s opening Premiership match at home to Sale Sharks.

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Ashley Johnson
  3. Jake Cooper-Woolley
  4. Matt Symons
  5. Will Rowlands
  6. James Gaskell
  7. Guy Thompson
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Jimmy Gopperth
  11. Marcus Watson
  12. Gabiriele Lovobalavu
  13. Juan de Jongh
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Rob Miller
  16. Tom Cruse
  17. Simon McIntyre
  18. Martin Moore
  19. Kearnan Myall
  20. Jack Willis
  21. Alex Rieder
  22. Joe Simpson
  23. Danny Cipriani
  24. Guy Armitage
  25. Brendan Macken
  26. Josh Bassett
  27. Owain James

Connacht Line ups

  1. Peter McCabe
  2. Tom McCartney
  3. Conor Carey
  4. James Cannon
  5. Andrew Browne
  6. Eoghan Masterson
  7. Jarrad Butler
  8. John Muldoon
  9. James Mitchell
  10. Jack Carty
  11. Matt Healy
  12. Craig Ronaldson
  13. Eoin Griffin
  14. Rory Scholes
  15. Darragh Leader
  16. Conan O'Donnell
  17. Shane Delahunt
  18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
  19. Gavin Thornbury
  20. Peter Claffey
  21. Eoin McKeon
  22. James Connolly
  23. Sean O'Brien
  24. Conor McKeon
  25. Steve Crosbie
  26. Stacey Ili
  27. Matthew Byrne
  28. Cormac Brennan
  29. Cian Kelleher