Final buzz for Wasps' Lol
Wasps gave retiring skipper Lawrence Dallaglio the perfect send-off as they beat Leicester 26-16 in the Guinness Premiership final.
Last Updated: 01/06/08 2:10pm
Wasps gave retiring skipper Lawrence Dallaglio the perfect send-off as they beat Leicester 26-16 in the Guinness Premiership final at Twickenham.
The Londoners looked set for a comfortable victory after dominating the first-half, tries from Tom Rees and Josh Lewsey ensuring they went in at the interval with a commanding 23-6 lead.
But Leicester produced a spirited second-half fightback with Tom Varndell and Harry Ellis touching down to bring them back to within seven points.
Mark Van Gisbergen's third penalty nine minutes from time settled Wasps' nerves and they closed out the match with relative ease to ensure Dallaglio went out on a high.
Wasps had stormed clear through touchdowns by flanker Rees and wing Lewsey, while full-back Mark Van Gisbergen weighed in with five successful kicks.
Van Gisbergen finished with 16 points - in stark contrast to goalkicking opponent Andy Goode, who slotted just two from six attempts.
There seemed no way back for a spirited Leicester side, who had edged into the play-offs and then beaten Gloucester by a point in a gripping semi-final.
But they remained in the fight, despite Goode's inaccuracy and even after Dallaglio made his exit - to a prolonged standing ovation - 12 minutes from time.
Wasps though, 10th in the Premiership just before Christmas, completed a prolonged run to the finishing line and had just enough gas left in the tank.
Van Gisbergen and Goode exchanged early penalties - then Wasps struck from their first meaningful attack.
Fit-again England World Cup captain Phil Vickery proved a prominent ball-carrier after scrum-half Eoin Reddan's midfield break, and Leicester were at sixes and sevens in defence.
Wasps had no intention of letting such an opportunity slip, and Rees dived over for a try that Van Gisbergen converted from the touchline.
The Tigers briefly roared through wing Alesana Tuilagi's power, but Wasps finished the opening half with a 10-point blitz in six minutes.
Van Gisbergen completed his penalty hat-trick after Leicester's England lock Ben Kay was fortunate to escape a yellow card, then Wasps struck a killer blow.
Ultimately though it was a missed tackle by Tigers flanker Ben Herring that allowed Lewsey to sprint clear and touch down, with Van Gisbergen's fifth successful kick giving Wasps an imposing 23-6 interval advantage.
Leicester threw everything at Wasps from the restart, and scrum-half Ellis was agonisingly denied a try when his chip and chase was tapped behind his dead-ball line by a retreating Paul Sackey.
Territorially, Tigers remained in the contest, but their lack of firepower was exposed until Goode unlocked Wasps' defence after 56 minutes.
Goode's clever cross-kick caused uncertainty in the Wasps defence, and after Van Gisbergen and Lewsey failed to clear, Varndell pounced for an opportunist score.
Although Varndell's touchdown only reduced the gap to 23-11, it served as a wake-up call for Wasps, who had shown signs of complacency.
And when the game went to uncontested scrums, Leicester immediately prospered after Ellis scampered off the back to cross unopposed.
Goode missed the conversion, but Leicester were back in the final at only seven points adrift, setting up a nerve-tingling closing 15 minutes.
Van Gisbergen then hoisted Wasps 26-16 clear, and when Goode missed a straightforward penalty nine minutes from time, Wasps knew a fourth title in six years was in the bag.