Wasps hold on for victory
By Michael Wise
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Wasps started their Heineken Cup campaign with a hard-fought 19-13 victory over Castres Olympique in their Pool One match at Adams Park.
Wasps started their Heineken Cup campaign with a hard-fought 19-13 victory over Castres in their Pool One match at Adams Park.
The respective records of the clubs in their domestic leagues so far this season - Wasps placed second in the Guinness Premiership facing a side thus far without a win on the road - might have led home fans to expect a glut of points.
However, with heavy rain creating extremely slippery conditions, Castres pushed Wasps all the way.
The home side entered the half-time interval in the ascendancy thanks to a try scored by the darting Paul Sackey (pictured).
But any thoughts of Wasps imposing their authority during the second half were dashed as soon as Akventsi Giorgadze pulled Castres back moments after the break.
The visitors then proceeded to apply consistent pressure, with the kicking skills of substitute fly-half Alex King occasionally providing welcome relief for Wasps.
With Wasps spending most of the half protecting a precarious three-point lead, King's ability to gain much-needed yardage also resulted in a late Mark van Gisbergen penalty which added a measure of security.
Castres failed to find the converted try they needed in the last ten minutes but, given the two sides' relative performances, they will doubtless fancy their chances in the return leg.
With rain falling heavily by the midway point in the first half, the increasingly greasy conditions left the way clear for fly-halfs Jeremy Staunton and Gordon Ross to add points.
Wasps seized the initiative on five minutes when Tom Voyce sprinted for the corner. The winger then passed to van Gisbergen, but the ball was knocked on.
However a Castres infringement at the resulting scrum saw Staunton convert confidently.
Ross levelled three minutes later with an even more difficult penalty, with a long-range effort from Staunton on 17 minutes again giving Wasps a three-point advantage.
Wasps' first chance of a try came three minutes later when, following a period of Castres pressure, Tom Rees tackled Romain Teulet.
The ball fell for van Gisbergen but, with an overlap on the blindside looking highly possible, his pass to Voyce was fumbled.
Ross then levelled on 24 minutes with an excellent penalty from halfway, the fly-half's cry of disappointment when missing another from the right-hand touchline moments later proving appropriate given the way the match unfolded.
Staunton's hat-trick was completed just after the half hour, with momentum finally building for Wasps in the final five minutes after a break inspired by Raphael Ibanez.
But the move broke down only five or so yards out when Rees was unable to find van Gisbergen with the final ball.
However, the breakthrough came on the stroke of half-time when a patient Wasps build-up burst into life as Sackey sprinted through with Staunton converting.
Wasps looked to capitalise and initally went on the offensive after the interval.
But Voyce was dispossessed and, with Teulet clearing, the resulting line-out almost saw the visitors taking full advantage of Tom Palmer's indecision.
Castres' response came moments later when Giorgadze muscled his way through, with Ross again converting well.
Wasps were now under severe pressure and an explosive Castres break almost resulted in another try for Giorgadze, with Laloaoa Milford also coming close.
Just past the hour Christophe Laussucq almost converted a cheeky drop goal when looking for the try perhaps seemed the better option.
Castres were also looking to take advantage of the slippery conditions, their pressuring of Wasps' backs by punting in the high ball almost paying off as Voyce again fumbled.
But welcome relief came after a turnover on 70 minutes, with King's deft kick chased and dealt with by Teulet.
However a penalty did eventually result, with van Gisbergen's conversion giving Wasps a six-point lead they were able to defend until the final whistle.