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Wasps lose 27-point lead on Premiership opener
WASPS will spend some time getting this out of their systems.
After an hour of their opening Aviva Premiership match they were on course for a day of days. They'd scored five tries and were leading the defending champions 40-13.
However, just 20 minutes later the Wasps players were prone on the Twickenham turf, shell-shocked and shaken as they tried to come to terms with a 42-40 defeat.
Quins, the best team in the country at scoring heavily and scoring fast, were given a sniff of a lifeline when Tom Guest charged down Nick Robinson to make it 40-20, but three more tries came in a dazzling spell of rugby immediately after that and when the Kiwi fly half Nick Evans knocked over a 40m penalty two minutes from time, the crushing comeback was complete.
It had all looked so good for Dai Young's team though, after they made a start to the game every bit as devastating as Quins' finish.
Christian Wade carried on from last season with a brace of tries, his first coming after just three minutes, Tom Varndell blazed over on the opposite flank and when Marco Wentzel and Tim Payne – particularly Tim Payne - also touch down, then you have got to think it's your day.
But despite that blitzkrieg, Wasps weren't able to hold on; in a quite remarkable game, their 27-point lead was washed away by a Quins tidal wave in the final quarter.
Wasps began the season at breakneck pace and with just 13 minutes of the new campaign played they were already leading 20-0.
Wade was of course their main weapon. The top-scorer from last season needed only three minutes to slip back into the groove as Wasp worked a huge overlap on the right, and five minutes later he was at it again with another blurring burst down the wing.
This time, after crossing the line himself, he gave the try to fellow winger Varndell but there was no doubting who was stealing the headlines and after a superb turnover from Andrea Masi and Jonathan Poff on the halfway line, Wade was there again to sidestep the Quins defence and score Wasps' third try in 25 spellbinding minutes.
Robinson converted two of them and added a couple of penalties for good measure, and if Quins wing Tom Williams hadn't profited from a tap and go penalty with 16 minutes played, the black and golds would have been on easy street.
But 28-7 after half an hour was beyond the expectations of even the most ardent Wasps fan and not even two Quins penalties, cutting the gap to 28-13, could take the gloss off a first half that was as as anything the team produced last season.
And it might have been even better – Varndell thought he'd scored try number four on the stroke of half time but a marginally forward pass in the build up cut his celebrations short.
That irritation aside, the black and golds couldn't have asked for much more from an opening 40. Never mind the tries, the slick handling befitted the grand stage, the back row of James Haskell, Billy Vunipola and Poff were giving their team a better than even chance at the breakdown and hooker Tom Lindsay was having a red-letter day at the line-out (Wasps didn't lose one line-out in the first half).
But the job was only half-done and even with a 15-point lead there was a sense that the next score could be critical.
Had Quins got it, the lead would have been down to single figures and the game would have been there for the taking again. Instead though, Varndell underlined Wasps' wing power as he broke clear down the left before flinging the ball one-handed into the the path of Marco Wentzel.
The vice captain strode over to restore Wasps' 20-point cushion and secure their try bonus in the process, and the points looked to be under lock and key when Payne flopped over the line shortly afterwards.
With just over a quarter of the match left, that was it. A lead of 40-13 was seemingly unassailable and perhaps some of the players slipped into that mode of thinking too as Quins crossed three times in little more than five minutes to give themselves a chance.
First Guest scored after charging down Robinson – that was the catalyst - then Mike Brown finished off the try of the match after a scintillating 50m run from Evans and moments later the full back went over again.
Suddenly it was 40-32, Quins were riding a wave and with 11 minutes left the comeback was almost complete when Evans jinked over again.
His conversion made it 40-39 in a quite extraordinary match, and with less than three minutes left the Kiwi fly half finished off the job himself with a 40m penalty.
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