Wasps draw Exiles' sting
Wasps held off a late rally from London Irish to maintain their late push for Europe with a 21-16 win at Adams Park.
Last Updated: 08/03/09 7:14pm
Wasps kept alive their hopes of European qualification, though only just, as they held off London Irish to triumph 21-16 at Adams Park.
The defending Guinness Premiership champions made the most of having a strong wind at their backs to build a 13-6 half-time lead.
Prop Pat Barnard's try in the 54th minute seemed to have pushed them too far clear for their opponents to have any chance of recovering.
However, the Exiles - second-half specialists in the league this season - came close to overturning a 21-9 deficit in a thrilling finish.
Adam Thompstone's try, converted by Shane Geraghty, gave them renewed hope but despite knocking hard at the door in the closing minutes, they were unable to find a way through.
In the end they had to settle for a losing bonus point, something they have become all-too familiar with in recent times as they have slipped out of the top four places.
In contrast, Wasps - with the added boosted of the return of fit-again flanker Tom Rees - will hope they are once again coming good at the right time.
While this result was far-from pretty, most importantly they did enough to pick up a crucial victory as they bid to make up the lost ground.
Looking to push his claims for an England recall, Danny Cipriani converted a 10th minute penalty try and also knocked over two penalties in the first half.
His kicking out of hand also worked well as the hosts looked to force their opponents to play from deep in the face of a very stiff breeze.
Despite the disadvantage, the Exiles could have been in front at the break had Geraghty been able to come to grips with the testing conditions.
Filling in at full-back due to injuries, the fly-half failed with three shots at the posts before the interval - the first coming in the opening minute while the last, albeit from long range, proved to be the final action of the opening 40 minutes.
The turnaround should have allowed Toby Booth's side to dominate territory but instead it was Wasps who pushed on to grab a second try.
After Geraghty's third penalty of the day had made it 13-9, the chance for points stemming from a poor pass from Cipriani to no one, Josh Lewsey helped carry the home side into range.
Pat Barnard spotted some space on the blindside from a ruck and managed to squeeze his way over, aided by a shove from team-mate Mark van Gisbergen that may have helped convince the tv official to award the score.
Cipriani failed with the conversion but did slot over a penalty before helping his team hang on in a frantic final quarter, including one crucial tackle that stopped Seilala Mapusua in his tracks.
Thompstone set up a grandstand finish by showing up Tom Voyce, skipping around his fellow winger to race in close enough for Geraghty to convert.
But - just as they had done against Leicester on home soil the previous week - Irish had left themselves with too much to do and a season full of promise is threatening to fall apart. As for Wasps, they hope the only way is up.