Planet Rugby

Wasps let Clermont off the hook

15th December 2007 19:13

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James Haskell tries to break throihg the Clermont defence

Haskell: Getting better with every game for Wasps

London Wasps beat Clermont 25-24 in an epic Heineken Cup match at Adams Park on Saturday to keep their tournament hopes alive.

On the evidence of the first-half it seemed as if the hosts would run away with it, racing into a 22-0 lead, but then back came Clermont with some stunning rugby.

Three first-half tries set Wasps up to go hunting a try bonus point in the second half, but it was the French side who went hunting tries. And how they did it, Aurélien Rougerie and Vilimoni Delasau scoring stunning length of the field tries before Emmanuel Etien secured a losing bonus point with the last play of the game.

Wasps will be kicking themselves, firstly for not securing the four-try bonus point and then for letting Clermont sneak a late bonus point.

It was a classic contest that started with typical Wasps dynamism as running duo Josh Lewsey and James Haskell immediately pumped through tackles.

But judging from the opening five minutes the Adams Park crowd got the sense that this was an away Clermont side in a very different mindset to the one that struggled out in Munster.

However that didn't faze the Heineken Cup holders, who struck first when Dallaglio wrestled Mignoni's clutches off the ball five metres out. Irish scrum-half Reddan was alive to the bouncing ball and cleverly dribbled over for the opening try on six minutes.

Seremaïa Bai's running ability then scuppered a moment of brilliance from Cipriani, as the number ten scorched around Rougerie before sliding a kick inside for the supporting Sackey. But the England winger failed to collect the bobbling ball as chances continued to present themselves.

Yet more swiftly recycled ball brought about Wasps' second score on 15 minutes as Clermont struggled to catch their breath.

The lead was then stretched to fifteen thanks to a simple Cipriani penalty following an offside before the youngster raced Bai for the line with neither grounding the ball.

Wasps seemed to be spurred on and once again Haskell linked with his backs to spark a charge out from his own 22. And within seconds Cipriani had backed himself up to halfway before an exchange with Waters led to Sackey going over for the score of the game.

However, it was Clermont who struck first in the second period when Cipriani's cross-field kick found Rougerie who raced away from 80 metres.

That sparked an enthralling game to move up another gear as space began to open up for the French heavyweights. The onslaught continued on the hour as Clermont set up camp on the hosts' line.

But Wasps managed to weather the storm until tempers began to boil over between the players and, shockingly, a crowd member. Jamie Cudmore was sent to the bin but questions will be asked as to why he was not red-carded. The number six unloaded with a tirade of punches on a helpless Wasps player.

If that was inexcusable, the actions from one member of the crowd were totally unacceptable, and have cast a shadow over the sport. With the fight spilling over onto the touchline a madman threw a flapping hand towards the head of James Haskell.

When the action got underway again there came a moment of brilliance from substitute Vilimoni Delasau. The Fijian, from a standing start five metres from his own line, outpaced two Wasps defenders, notably Sackey being one of them, to set up a captivating finish with a length of the field try.

But Wasps were not to make the same mistake twice in the same week as they declined their own try-scoring bonus point to seal the win, believing they had denied Clermont anything in an enthralling pool.

However, substitute Etien crashed over on the final whistle after a barrage of sustained Clermont pressure to claim what could be a vital losing bonuspoint.

Man of the match: A virtuoso first-half display from Danny Cipriani had everything as Wasps steamrolled the Challenge Cup holders. Free running and vision from the England youngster sparked so many of Wasps' attacks. Surely now a serious Six Nations contender!

The Scorers:

For Wasps:

Tries: Reddan, Voyce, Sackey

Cons: Cipriani 2

Pens: Cipriani 2

For Clermont:

Tries: Rougerie, Delasau

Cons: King 2

Pen: King

Yellow card: Cudmore (Clermont - 58th minute, punching)

The Teams:

Wasps: 15 Josh Lewsey, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Fraser Waters, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio (c), 7 Tom Rees, 6 James Haskell, 5 George Skivington, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Nick Adams, 2 Raphaël Ibañez, 1 Tim Payne.

Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Tom French, 18 Richard Birkett, 19 Dan Leo, 20 Mark McMillan, 21 Mark van Gisbergen, 22 John Hart.

Clermont: 15 Seremaïa Bai, 14 Aurélien Rougerie (c), 13 Grant Esterhuizen, 12 Pierre-Manuel Garcia, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Alex King, 9 Pierre Mignoni, 8 Elvis Vermeulen, 7 Fabien Alexandre, 6 Jamie Cudmore, 5 Christophe Samson, 4 Loïc Jacquet, 3 Martin Scelzo, 2 John Smit, 1 Laurent Emmanuelli.

Replacements: 16 Mario Ledesma, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Pierre Vigouroux, 19 Emmanuel Etien, 20 John Senio, 21 Raphael Chanal, 22 Vilimoni Delasau.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

Touch judges: Simon McDowell (Ireland), Mark Hermin (Ireland)

Television match official: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)

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