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Wasps denied by TMO try two minutes from time
WASPS and Harlequins must stop playing each other for the health of the nation.
Their last three matches before this 11-10 defeat were decided by two points or less with the losers each time missing kicks in the final moments to win it – and this game was even closer.
Quins won it by an inch, literally one inch – and even that inch was contentious.
Wasps were leading 10-6 with two minutes to go when Quins winger Sam Smith tried to wriggle over in the corner.
Elliot Daly and James Short were wrapped around him but Smith reached over his shoulder to put the ball down.
However, it looked short of the tryline and referee Luke Pearce went to the TMO for a verdict.
Replays weren't conclusive either way, but Quins got the decision – if the ball was over, it must have been a loose thread dangling down onto the tallest blade of grass.
Either way, it consigned Wasps to a defeat that will hurt as much as any in recent years.
It wasn't so much the manner and the timing of it that will sting, although that won't have helped, but the fact that they were utterly dominant for the first 40 minutes, when they had the wind behind them, and at least shared the game after the turnaround.
However, 10-3 at the interval was a poor return for their complete superiority and in the end their failure to build a bigger buffer came back to haunt them in the cruelest way.
Wasps were hurt even before kick off with Andy Goode withdrawing with a knee injury, but replacement Joe Carlisle made an assured start that should have seen his side comfortably in front after the first quarter.
First he won a kicking duel with Nick Evans to make 30m for his team and that meant when Quins infringed it was within range of their posts.
Carlisle duly knocked it over to give Wasps an early 3-0 advantage, and although Evans replied in kind shortly afterwards Carlisle's sublime offload so nearly led to the opening try after nine minutes.
He slipped through a half gap to make a yard and his back of the hand pass sent Jake Cooper-Woolley galloping into space 30m out.
Sam Jones was on his shoulder and had a free run to the line, but he didn't have the gas and Karl Dickson got back to bring him down 5m short.
It was a chance gone begging and another opportunity for points was squandered as Wasps went through the phases feet from the tryline, until a penalty gifted Quins an escape route.
With the wind behind them in the first half, Wasps needed to build a buffer but the hosts were hanging on stubbornly and got another reprieve when Carlisle pulled a 23rd minute penalty.
Next it was Short accelerating through but Smith withstood his battering ram run and then Daly's cross-chip sailed out of play just a yard ahead of Will Helu.
It was turning into a game nearlys for the black and golds, who had monopolised possession and territory for 25 minutes without making a telling move.
But, before frustration got the better of them, their forwards delivered the goods.
Carlisle kicked a penalty to touch and although the line-out was aborted, Wasps made the most of the scrum to win a penalty try.
Carlisle converted to make it 10-3, but Wasps lightning couldn't strike twice in the final minute of the half; again the fly half kicked a penalty to touch, again the line-out drive wasn't set and again the teams packed down for a scrum instead.
This time though, Quins absorbed the pressure to reach the sanctity of the dressing room just a score behind.
With the squally conditions behind them, they could have virtually wiped out that deficit out with penalties after 45 and 51 minutes.
But Ben Botica missed the first of them, and in between Wasps had mounted a serious attack of their own that only ended with a bone-jarring hit on Andrea Masi 10m from the tryline.
However, 10-6 with a quarter remaining was still a precarious lead - although the black and golds would have been hugely encouraged that the home team were nowhere near as authoritative after the interval as Wasps had been before it.
In fact, the more the half developed, the greater Wasps' control became and between 60 and 70 minutes Quins hardly got out of their own half.
A score of any kind would have probably killed off the Quins challenge, but it remained a four-point game and that meant everything rested on the final five minutes, when the home team, roared on by their vocal support, launched a final assault.
Once, twice, three times the black and golds stood firm on their own line with tackles flying in and bodies on the line.
Eventually though, as is the way between these two teams, there was a sucker punch coming.
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