Planet Rugby

Varndell stars for winning Wasps

05th September 2009 19:06

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Tom Varndell score for Wasps

Debut brace: Tom Varndell

Wasps came from behind to defeat a manager-less Harlequins 26-15 in the second fixture of London's Double Header on Saturday.

Harlequins' first step on the road to redemption was backwards after lock George Robson was sent off for head-butting just 46 seconds into the new season.

Robson's moment of madness did nothing to help Harlequins in their efforts to rebuild a reputation shattered over the summer by the Bloodgate scandal.

But in the remaining 79 minutes there was much for the Harlequins faithful to be proud of as they provided Wasps with stern resistance at Twickenham.

There was no blood - real or otherwise - but plenty of thunder from the Quins, who defied the loss of Robson to open a 12-5 lead with tries from Ugo Monye and new signing Gonzalo Camacho.

Wasps took their time in the face of a spirited Quins resistance but eventually sealed an opening day victory with a brace of tries from debutant winger Tom Varndell and a late penalty try.

Harlequins were always going to be under the microscope at Twickenham today after being found guilty of using fake blood capsules in an attempt to cheat their way to victory in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster.

One group of supporters in the south-west corner were dressed in dracula outfits, complete with capes, fangs and fake blood painted around their mouths.

The banter that had been whipping around the Twickenham bars was generally good-natured, although one Wasps fan took exception to the Harlequins mascot and doused him with a pint of beer.

After a summer of shame, this was the moment Harlequins had been desperate for. The chance to start rebuilding their reputation on the field.

Quins did indeed come out fighting and, with the match just 46 seconds old, Robson was sent off.

Steve Kefu had just fired a kick directly into touch when Robson became embroiled in an off-the-ball scuffle and aimed a head-butt at the Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson.

Referee Dean Richards - a deliciously ironic appointment by the Rugby Football Union given the role his suspended namesake played in the Bloodgate saga - took advice from his assistant and brandished the red card.

If ever Quins needed to prove their summer pronouncements of unity and team spirit were not more than just a party line, this was it.

And Will Skinner's men responded nobly. For half an hour, Nick Evans directed the show from fly-half and Wasps had little answer to Quins' makeshift scrum.

And Harlequins took a deserved lead after 10 minutes when David Strettle gathered Evans' cross kick, jinked in from the right wing and then sent Monye over for the try with a one-handed pass.

Wasps responded with a debut try from Varndell, who started the move with a 50-metre break and then finished it after a darting run and delayed pass from Danny Cipriani.

But the short-handed Quins refused to be cowed and, immediately from Evans' restart, Care picked out Camacho with a perfectly-weighted cross-kick.

Evans converted the try and then landed a penalty, earned by Harlequins' makeshift scrum with winger Camacho packing down on the flank.

But Mark van Gisbergen, kicking instead of Cipriani, drew Wasps back into it with two penalties of his own and just before the interval Varndell struck again.

Wasps stole lineout ball on the Quins 22 and whisked it wide through Kefu and Ben Jacobs to Varndell, who crashed over the line and managed to force the ball down.

Harlequins continued to show the right kind of fighting spirit after the interval, defending valiantly as first Cipriani and then Jacobs darted for the line before eventually conceding a penalty under the posts, which Van Gisbergen slotted.

Harlequins made two changes to their front row and kept the Wasps scrum under pressure but Evans missed two penalty shots that would have earned a narrow lead.

Harlequins had their heroes. Nick Easter and the front row battled valiantly.

But as they tired, Wasps cranked up the pressure in the closing minutes and won a penalty try from a driving lineout maul which denied Harlequins even a losing bonus point.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Tries: Varndell 2, Penalty
Con: Van Gisbergen
Pen: Van Gisbergen 2

For Harlequins:
Tries: Monye, Camacho
Con: Evans
Pen: Evans

London Wasps: 15 Mark Van Gisbergen, 14 Tom Varndell, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Steve Kefu, 11 David Lemi, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Dan Ward-Smith, 7 Serge Betsen (c), 6 John Hart, 5 Richard Birkett, 4 George Skivington, 3 Gabriel Bocca, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Tim Payne.
Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Ben Broster, 18 Tom French, 19 Dan Leo, 20 Hugo Ellis, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Dave Walder, 23 Lachlan Mitchell.

Harlequins: 15 Ugo Monye, 14 David Strettle, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Gonzalo Camacho, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Will Skinner (c), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Robson, 4 James Percival, 3 Mark Lambert, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Tani Fuga, 17 Aston Croall, 18 John Andress, 19 Jim Evans, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Steve So'oialo, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 George Lowe.

Referee: Dean Richards

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