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Wasps run out of puff in Worcester
WASPS will drag their battle-weary bodies away for a fortnight's rest on the back of two away defeats after they were beaten 29-23 at Worcester Warriors tonight.
After losing to London Irish last weekend, this was a match Wasps were desperate to win to remain on the front foot in the race for the play-offs.
But while the spirit was willing, the tank hit empty early in the match and they could only manage to play in spurts after that.
It's almost as if the players suddenly realised how tired they were. Six first-team absentees – including the talismanic pair Christian Wade and Billy Vunipola – didn't help matters and although they left everything they had on the pitch the zip was taken out of their defence as the home team went over four times to take the points.
Wasps' challenge this season will now depend on how they recover in the next two weeks.
Because they'll return to a maelstrom. Northampton, Saracens, Leinster and Leicester follow one after the other and the black and golds will either have everything or nothing to play at the end of it. Games between these two have developed a stodgy reputation, but this match certainly bucked the trend early on with both sides going at each other hammer and tongs.
Worcester were first on the front foot and Andy Goode nudged them in front with a fourth-minute penalty, but Wasps came back at them hard and for the next ten minutes threatened a try with almost every attack.
Half backs Nick Robinson and Joe Simpson were at the heart of it, while Charlie Hayter – a late replacement for Chris Bell – continued a fine start to his Wasps career with a line break that made every sit up and take notice.
The ball eventually found its way to Tom Varndell, but he was stopped a few yards short with Hayter running free inside him.
The forwards also went close as they rumbled to within reaching distance of the try line but Wasps' only reward for a vibrant spell was two Robinson penalties.
That put them 6-3 up after 15 minutes, but they couldn't build on that as Goode – strongly linked with a summer switch to Wasps – began to run the match.
Apart from penning Wasps back with a few pinpoint penalties to the corners, he was also involved in the two tries that gave Worcester control at the break.
Full back Chris Pennell got the first of them after 16 minutes when he made the most of a huge overlap to go over in the corner, and former Wasps winger David Lemi dived over for their second score after a canny chip from Goode as delicate as it was imaginative caught the Wasps line flat.
The fly half converted one of them to make it 15-6 at the interval, and Wasps could have few complaints.
They weren't as one-paced as they had been against Irish last weekend, but they weren't fizzing either and without James Haskell, Joe Launchbury, Christian Wade, Billy Vunipola, Chris Bell and Tom Palmer, their squad is now starting to look a little threadbare – particularly among the replacements.
A missed penalty from Robinson with the last kick of the half didn't help, but after a few minutes rest Wasps came out totally recharged and caught Worcester by surprise.
A Herculean effort from the forwards saw T Rhys Thomas barrel over after 43 minutes and ten minutes later Ashley Johnson followed him over the line.
Robinson converted the second score to end a run of three missed kicks and make it 18-15 (it would have been 26-18 without those misses) and for a few minutes it looked like Wasps might just have enough left in them to hang on.
Worcester's Josh Drauniniu had been sin-binned and some blistering attacks had twice nearly sent Elliot Daly over.
There was even a 20m dart from Tim Payne thrown in there to shock all and sundry.
It wasn't to be though.
Worcester turned up the power, their pack shoved the black and golds back over their own line for a Blair Cowan try midway through the half and with ten minutes left scrum half Jonny Arr darted through to put the game beyond doubt.
When Tom Varndell was shunted out of play as he went for the line with five minutes remaining Wasps knew it really wasn't their night.
At least Jack Wallace secured the balm of a bonus point with a try at the death after Wasps' last hurrah.
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