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Varndell declaws Tigers as Wasps continue home form
ON a day of storms, Wasps beat Leicester at their own game by blowing them away up front to make it six wins out of six at Adams Park this season.
Former Tiger Tom Varndell scored the only try of the game, but the points were won by a bristling performance from the pack.
On a soggy, rain-soaked pitch, territory was always going to be key and it was the home team that bossed it thanks to their overall control in the set-piece.
A few iffy scrums at the start didn't bode well for the hosts, but they quickly addressed that and their superiority throughout from the line-out meant the key ingredients were in place to win the sort of nip and tuck match that Wasps fans have got used to seeing their side lose.
If the pack can rule like that and with a mouthwatering backs division already in place, the pieces are coming together nicely under Dai Young.
They are still a work in progress, but the progress is working and next week they will try and tick another task off their to-do list by winning away in Exeter.
But while the match developed into an old-fashioned arm-wrestle in the wet, it certainly didn't begin that way and if England's match against South Africa yesterday suggested the game in this country is in ill-health, Wasps provided an antidote with a crackling start that saw both wingers ignite Adams Park.
Tom Varndell was the first to spark, sliding over the whitewash inside two minutes after Joe Simpson and Elliot Daly had linked well.
But it was Christian Wade who really set pulses racing with an individual burst that again had fans of the Red Roses scratching their heads at Stuart Lancaster's reluctance to give him a chance.
His 40m slalom didn't result in a try, but when Wade stepped inside three Tigers, sliced between two more and then surged outside another he had everyone inside the ground on their feet and open-mouthed.
A last-gasp tackle from Niall Morris stopped him less than a yard short, but a penalty followed and Nick Robinson converted to established an 8-0 lead with just six minutes gone.
If Tigers were shell-shocked though, they didn't show it.
With nous and know-how to spare, they reverted to their default setting to get a foothold in the match and yard by yard their pack buffeted Wasps back into their own half, winning a penalty with ten minutes gone to make it 8-3.
Another penalty after 33 minutes cut the gap to two points by the break, but by then Wasps should really have built up a handy lead.
Varndell and Wade had both streaked through Tigers in open play, Robinson from 35m and Daly from 52m had both missed pots at the posts and their pack – after an early chastening in the scrum – had bucked up their ideas substantially to turn the tables on their guests.
But penalties had been their undoing.
Time and again referee Sean Davey pinged them at the breakdown and that together with Tigers' stoic defence meant Wasps didn't reach the break with the sort of score that had been available for them.
And if fans feared a repeat of the Saracens experience - when Wasps missed the boat in the first half and were over-powered in the second - they won't have found much relief immediately after the restart.
First Leicester went 9-8 in front after winning a penalty in the scrum and then Varndell was denied his second score by the TMO after a forward pass from Hugo Southwell.
It was definitely a chance missed for the black and golds but, unlike at Vicarage Road, their pack remained on the front foot and substitute Lee Thomas landed penalties after 53 and 58 minutes to ease his team back ahead at 14-9.
Ford replied in kind shortly afterwards, making it a two-point game going into the final 15 minutes.
And that proved just enough.
Ford missed off the tee with eight minutes left, Thomas missed from the touchline shortly afterwards and then, amidst almost unbearable tension in the final seconds, they kept their heads to earn a standing ovation from the 7,658 crowd at the final whistle.