Planet Rugby

Tigers take sting out of Wasps

22nd March 2008 16:19

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Dan Hipkiss on a charging run in the EDF

Tiger power: Dan Hipkiss gives the Wasps defence plenty to think about

Leicester claimed a spot in the EDF Energy Cup final as they powered to a 34-24 victory over rivals Wasps in a classic encounter at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The eye-catching game was yet another memorable event between these two heavyweights, which leaves Wasps clutching at Guinness Premiership straws if they are to attend next season's European top table.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have kept alive hopes of consecutive double successes as a virtuoso performance from fly-half Andy Goode guided Marcelo Loffreda's men to Twickenham next month.

Eight Six Nations stars were on show at the setting of Wales' Grand Slam sealer over France, with the majority of Warren Gatland's squad warming-up for Ospreys duty against Saracens for part deux of the afternoon's double-header.

Yet the early all-English showdown between last season's Heineken Cup finalists had all the ingredients of a Six Nations battle, with Leicester's physical nature and brawn colliding with a Wasps team that excels in the knockout competition - and it did not disappoint.

Contrasting domestic standings were unsurprisingly discarded as these old enemies - including an ongoing fourteen-year Lawrence Dallaglio versus Martin Corry battle - went about their business.

Not forgetting that lifting this trophy qualifies the victors for Europe's elite competition next season - possibly viewed as Wasps' saving grace of an international call-up marred season - added yet more spice to the game.

And it was the league fliers who started the clash far more sprightly as Martin Castrogiovanni galloped through a well-worked hole on halfway.

However, the Italian ignored flank Ben Herring inside, who was tracking a clear run to the posts as the game tempo was right up there with last week's Slam finale.

Leicester continued their pressure when returning scrum-half Harry Ellis proceeded to cause chaos with a guided box just ten metres from the Wasps whitewash for chasing Tom Varndell.

But the bouncing ball evaded his winger and covering Josh Lewsey emerged to calmly dab down - yet consolation swiftly came through three points from Goode's boot.

However, despite the Tigers barrage, it was man of the moment Danny Cipriani who grabbed the opening try as he spotted a dogleg outside Dan Hipkiss, strongly racing over before converting wide out.

Then it was the maverick's half-back partner Eoin Reddan who sparked another breathtaking score following Goode's second penalty goal.

The Irish nine left Corry clutching at thin air down the right as he raced away from his own 22-metre before feeding an unmarked Paul Sackey, who finished superbly to take the scores to 6-12.

It was then the season's other in-form fly-half, Goode, who temporarily silenced the Cipriani bandwagon as he sliced through a gap to edge Leicester back in front five minutes before the break, capping a pulsating first half of rugby.

Upon his return, it was Goode again on top in the fly-half battle as his quick tap to Hipkiss led to an almost immediate 80-metre try.

The England centre received and duly raced outside Dallaglio before unleashing Tom Varndell down the touchline, who handed the ball back inside to the Seru Rabeni for the perfect start to the half.

However, as is their wont, the European holders hit back hard and had an opportunity to narrow the deficit to just one score when Alesana Tuilagi was penalised for lying on the ball - but Cipriani hooked the attempt wide.

Goode made the youngster pay. His chip and collect over the Wasps blitz was mesmerising before he drew Lewsey to feed eventual finisher Hipkiss.

But that only seemed to spur on England's revelation as Wasps refused to give up hope.

Back they came and with an overlap on offer, defender Tuilagi stepped in to nullify the attack, only for an intelligent Cipriani to flick of the ball over his own head for Sackey to add his second..

Was that to set up a grandstand finish in Cardiff? The answer was no, as Azzurri try-machine Castrogiovanni found himself on the end of another Hipkiss break and pop to seal Leicester's place at Twickenham.

Although Wasps' fighting spirit continued to the final whistle as Sackey broke from deep down the right before feeding Cipriani to claim his own brace, the game was gone in Cardiff.

Man of the match: England's forgotten man Dan Hipkiss was a pocket full of dynamism throughout the clash and fully deserved his try. Always a target for his forwards with his ability to stay on his feet in contact was a constant thorn in the Wasps side.

Moment of the match: Last week's England plaudits all went the way of Danny Cipriani, and he came ever so close to picking up this accolade for his flick-pass to his wing. However, the long-haired Goode's collected chip for Hipkiss' try took the Tigers into what looked a comfortable position.

Villain of the match: No villains in a memorable 80 minutes. However, following the final whistle a brief handbags between a bloodied Julian White and Lawrence Dallaglio was the only piece to report.

The scorers:

For Leicester:

Tries: Goode, Rabeni, Hipkiss, Castrogiovanni

Cons: Goode 4

Pens: Goode 2

For Wasps:

Tries: Cipriani 2, Sackey 2

Cons: Cipriani, Walder

Leicester: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Seru Rabeni, 12 Dan Hipkiss, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Martin Corry (c), 7 Ben Herring, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 George Chuter, 1 Boris Stankovich.

Replacements: 16 Benjamin Kayser, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Julian White, 19 Jordan Crane, 20 Christophe Laussucq, 21 Matt Cornwell, 22 Sam Vesty.

Wasps: 15 Josh Lewsey, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Fraser Waters, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 David Doherty, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio (c), 7 James Haskell, 6 John Hart, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 George Skivington, 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Raphael Ibanez, 1 Tim Payne.

Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Tom French, 18 Richard Birkett, 19 Dan Leo, 20 Mark McMillan, 21 Dave Walder, 22 Dominic Waldouck.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Touch judges: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales), Jon Mason (Wales)

TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)

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