Wasps swatted by late try
Clermont Auvergne blew Pool five wide open with a 37-27 victory over Wasps in their Heineken Cup clash on Saturday.
By Simon Dilger
Last Updated: 08/12/07 5:39pm
A try deep into injury time saw Wasps denied a bonus point as Clermont Auvergne beat the defending champions 37-27 in their Heineken Cup clash.
In what turned out to be a true battle of the heavyweights, Clermont blew their group wide open in a crunching showdown at the Stade Marcel Michelin.
Wasps must surely regret choosing not to defend their losing bonus point, instead going for broke to try and carve out a result well into injury time.
The decision turned out to be their undoing as, while attempting to mount a last ditch attack from inside their own 22, Wasps lost the ball allowing French skipper Aurélien Rougerie to touch down in the 86th minute.
Clermont and Wasps both now stand on nine points and, with Munster and Lanelli making up their group, the London club have much work to do to ensure they qualify.
A big start from Clermont Auvergne saw Wasps struggle to make any serious impact in the opening 30 minutes.
Clermont took a 3-0 lead early on via the boot of Brock James but Wasps youngster Danny Cipriani replied soon after to level scores.
James then missed the opportunity to add three more but almost immediately had a second chance, and this time the Australian was on target to nose the home side ahead.
The first try came after 20 minutes with Clermont exploiting the overlap in a wonderfully worked move from the base of the scrum to put winger Julien Malzieu over on the right and give the home side a 13-3 lead.
Wasps' reply came in the 32nd minute, James Haskell showing his pace and power to blast though the middle for a well constructed score under the posts.
Cipriani, under pressure from the referee to take the kick quickly, was lucky to secure the extra points after hitting the post from close range.
As half time loomed Clermont stepped up the pressure, looking for a second try to give them an all important points buffer going into the interval.
Again and again the French forwards drove into the guts of Wasps, their efforts eventually paying off, although somewhat controversially.
Mario Ledesma crossed in the right corner but the ball looked to have been held up by Wasps try scorer Haskell.
Subsequent replays seemed to confirm that Ledesma had not grounded the ball but, after an agonising wait, the video referee awarded the try leaving Wasps trailing by 10 at half time.
Wasps however are not ones to accept defeat easily and within minutes of the restart prop Tim Payne had crossed for a converted try to take them within three points of their hosts.
Aussie James extended the gap again but, when a French line-out throw went long Haskell was there to pick up the scraps and bundle over.
Cipriani added the points to give Wasps the lead for the first time and for a while it looked as if the London side might just do enough to win.
But Clermont too were not done and a long period of pressure paid off as the visitors made mistakes and the boot of James once again proved to be their nemesis.
His three penalties took the score to 32-24 before Cipriani found his range to close the gap and put Wasps within a converted try of victory.
But, with the bonus point looking safe, the visitors found themselves stunned by a turnover ball deep in their own half.
The resulting move saw Rougerie cross in the corner and deal a cruel blow to the Londoners hearts.