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Wasps launch season with bonus point victory
WASPS can breathe easy again after their fine form in Wycombe steadied a ship that was beginning to take on water.
Three narrow defeats to open the campaign had turned up the scrutiny on Dai Young's men, but a try-bonus victory over Worcester Warriors makes everything suddenly look a whole lot healthier and, compared to what might have been if it had gone badly at Adams Park today, eight points from four games means disaster has effectively been averted.
Instead, Wasps can take stock and go again. Their pack continues to look rock solid and Elliot Daly's return added something to the backs.
Joe Simpson, Tom Varndell, Hugo Southwell and Andrea Masi were all missing from that department too, and once they're back in the mix Wasps might actually be a force to be feared.
For now, this win is enough to celebrate.
It's early in the season, but a game between the bottom two sides is always weighted with tension and expectation and this match was no different.
The first quarter was an exercise in nerve-control with both sets of players butting into each other for all their worth with neither taking a backward step.
An Andy Goode penalty after two minutes gave Wasps the lead, two Ignacio Miers kicks put Worcester in front and after Goode levelled it up at 6-6 with 12 minutes gone the visitors nudged back ahead in the kicking duel with a third Mieres effort soon afterwards.
It was the sort of start to a game that is known in the industry as cagey, but it was no less compelling because, after just three games, this fixture arrived looking every inch a fork in the road for Young's team.
There was crisis in one direction, relief and renewed confidence in the other and such slender margins separating the two.
That tension informed the game early on and the anxiety gradually seeped into the stands as the black and golds worked themselves into promising positions before a fumble or penalty sent them scurrying back towards their own posts.
It was almost as if the players were trying too hard, and Ashley Johnson summed up the atmosphere when he was heard above the crowd calling for 'no penalties' as the pack jogged forwards for an attacking line-out.
But, still traling 9-6 with half an hour played, it was a case of whether Wasps could shake off the shackles and open up before succumbing completly to pressure paralysis.
The answer, when it came, was emphatic.
Just a minute later a sublime move through the hands sent Josh Bassett tearing down the channel normally owned by Varndell.
He showed incredible power to ride two tackles before finally being felled a few yards short, but the second wave was following up behind him and Matt Mullan was the man who drove over against his former club to ground the game's first try.
Goode's missed conversion meant it remained 11-9 at the interval, but the seal had been broken and, once the dust settled on a rampant third quarter from the hosts, Worcester had been to.
Two more tries and a penalty moved the score out to 24-9 and, at last, Wasps were up and running in the 2013/14 season.
First Christian Wade ran onto Charlie Davies' chip through after 44 minutes to claim his second of the campaign, and then Jake Cooper-Woolley touched down after Johnson had barrelled forwards 30m to within a long reach of the tryline.
Goode, who missed all three conversions, added a penalty and the only quesion in the final quarter was whether Wasps would add the gloss of bonus point.
And they did.
After a consolation score from Worcester, Guy Thompson came off the bench to finish off more good work from the forwards and although Goode completed the set by missing that conversion attempt as well, replacement fly half Joe Carlisle slotted a late penalty to make it 32-16 at the end.
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