In a topsy-turvy match, in which the lead changed hands several times, both sides deserve credit for making this the entertaining spectacle that it was, although the Tigers were forced to play with 14 men for an entire half after Will Spencer was red carded for a high tackle to Tommy Taylor’s head just before half-time.
Both sides scored four tries apiece with Juan de Jongh and Jonny May both rewarded with a brace each, but the home side got the rub of the green in the end and secured the result late in the second half via two Lima Sopoaga penalties.
Wasps dominated the early exchanges and raced into a 14-0 lead courtesy of well-taken tries from De Jongh and Josh Bassett which were both converted by Sopoaga.
De Jongh opened the scoring in the 10th minute when he crossed for the opening try from close quarters after Bassett and Dan Robson played prominent roles in the build-up.
Three minutes later, Bassett gathered an inch-perfect crossfield kick from Elliot Daly before dotting down in the corner, but Leicester struck back five minutes later when May dived onto the ball behind Wasps’ tryline after George Ford stabbed a grubber kick through.
Despite that try, the home side continued to dominate and they extended their lead in the 23rd minute when Nathan Hughes powered his way over the tryline after gathering a pass from Robson deep inside Leicester’s 22.
The Tigers replied with two penalties from Ford which meant Wasps held a 19-11 lead by the half-hour mark before Sopoaga added a penalty of his own two minutes later.
In the 38th minute, Ford made a brilliant break before offloading to Telusa Veainu, who dotted down under the posts and Ford added the extras which narrowed the gap to four points.
Shortly afterwards, Spencer received his marching orders for that hit on Taylor and Daly slotted the resulting penalty from just inside his half which meant Wasps led 25-18 at half-time.
A Ford penalty in the 45th minute cut Wasps’ lead to four points again and three minutes later the home side were also reduced to 14 men when Hughes was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements close to his tryline.
The visitors struck back shortly afterwards when Sione Kalamafoni showed great power and determination to score his side’s third try and Ford’s conversion meant the Tigers were now holding a 28-25 lead.
In the 55th minute, De Jongh left his stamp on this match when he set off on a mazy run in which he beat several defenders before crossing for his side’s bonus-point try and Sopoaga’s conversion gave Wasps a 32-28 lead.
The Tigers refused to surrender, however, and in the 58th minute May gathered a pass from Ford before crossing for his second try. Ford’s conversion extended Leicester’s lead but the home side finished stronger and responded with another Sopoaga penalty which drew his side level at 35-35 in the 66th minute.
Wasps dominated the game’s closing stages and sealed their win with further penalties from Sopoaga in the 72nd minute and just before full-time.
Tries: De Jongh 2, Bassett, Hughes
Cons: Sopoaga 3
Pens: Sopoaga 4, Daly
Yellow Card: Hughes
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: May 2, Veainu, Kalamafoni
Cons: Ford 3
Pens: Ford 3
Red Card: Spencer
Wasps: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Ashley Johnson, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ben Harris
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Zurabi Zhvania, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Will Rowlands, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Billy Searle, 23 Rob Miller
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Manu Tuilag, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Young, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Guy Thompson, 6 David Denton, 4 Mike Williams, 5 Will Spencer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 1 Greg Bateman
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 David Feao, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Sam Lewis, 21 Ben White, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Jordan Olowofela
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Hamish Smales, Jonathan Healy
Television match official: Malcolm Sinclair