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London Wasps (13) 19 - 12 (9) Leinster Rugby
Twickenham, London
Att: 33,282
Saturday, 17th January 2009, 15:30

This match was being touted as the Battle of the Capitals. It was quite grand talk but would the match live up to the hype? There were obvious flaws in the gimmick thought up by the marketing men and women. Wasps are of course not really from London, playing their games in Buckinghamshire and Leinster is a province of twelve counties and many cities, depending on your classification. The harshest of critics would also point out that Twickenham is a town outside the city limits but maybe we can give them that one. So with the Capital idea dismissed would we have a battle on our hands?

The match played out very much as a battle in as much as it was not the most aesthetic match you'll ever see. The penalty count was high, there were three yellow cards and there was a high casualty count in a bruising encounter. Leinster received two yellow cards, one rather bizarrely for Rob Kearney and one for Malcom O'Kelly for a boot that has also seen him fall foul of the citing commissioner.

Leinster were all at sea inside the opening fifteen minutes and found themselves with a significant disadvantage with the scrum again a major concern as the referee penalised Leinster with two early penalties. It seemed as though Cipriani was in forgiving mood missing the kicks at goal, the first of which was eminently kickable. On ten minutes however he made amends and struck three points. Within five minutes it was ten. Serge Betsen finishing after Lewsey had made a mockery of would be Leinster tackling. The only question was whether Skivington had knocked on prior to Betsen's touch down, and the TMO answered this in the negative.

Cipriani's conversion made it a ten point advantage and he and Felipe Contepomi exchanged penalties to keep Wasp's advantage at two scores.

Leinster's team was falling apart at the seams with Captain Leo Cullen being forced off with an arm injury and Van der Linde, who had been an injury doubt also departing before the first quarter of the match. Leinster also lost Rob Kearney to the sinbin when he was adjudged to have prevented a quick throw in after being forcibly bundled into touch by Sackey.

It was a ludicrous decision and if Leinster felt sorry for themselves it didn't show as they started to eke a way into the match for the first time. Contepomi was pulling the strings and when he surged through the Wasps defence and has cynically taken out by Betsen it seemed that Leinster had woken up. Betsen saw yellow and Leinster struck three points. The teams were fourteen a piece and with Kearney's return imminent it seemed as if the momentum may be with Leinster. This was to change however with Malcolm O'Kelly yellow carded for use of the boot and the loss of another Leinster prop in the form of Stan Wright. This gave the watching hordes the unusual sight of uncontested scrums, a truly rare occurrence at this level.


Whether this was gamesmanship we'll never know. True enough Leinster had been getting a tough time in the scrum from the ref and the loss of Malcolm O'Kelly would have exacerbated Leinster's control of the set piece, however both props had been injury doubts coming into the match and had been last minute confirmations to the line up. A last gasp kick before half time left the score-line at a four point deficit for Leinster, not bad considering the turmoil that had occurred on the pitch.

The second half was fraught with caution and both sides employed a game of aerial ping pong that without the hapless Staunton on display made no impact.

On the hour mark Cipriani and Contepomi exchanged penalties almost simultaneously with neither team able nor prepared to take the initiative. More aimless kicking ensued and the game appeared to be petering out.

Contepomi had an opportunity to cut the Wasps lead to a single point but skewed his effort wide of the posts and this near miss seemed to spur Wasps on with a slip only stopping Lewsey in a surge for the line. Leinster survived but when Wasps were awarded another penalty in Leinster territory it looked ominous. Wasps bizarrely decided to kick for the posts with Dave Walder striking the ball well over the bar. This gave Wasps a seven point advantage, surely enough to seal the win but in the process handing Leinster the bonus point they needed to stay atop the group.

Leinster departed bruised and battered but alive. The defeat may have not been the desired outcome but the bonus point garnered in defeat meant that their destiny is in their own hands and matching or bettering Wasps next weekend would secure a quarter final place.
Match Statistics
  London Wasps
  Leinster Rugby
Tries  Betsen  
Conversions Cipriani  
Penalties Cipriani (2)
  Contepomi (4)
Sin Bin Betsen (33-43)
  Kearney (25-35)
O'Kelly (36-46)
Teams Paul van Gisbergen
15 Robert Kearney
Paul Sackey
14 Shane Horgan
Dominic Waldouck
13 Brian O'Driscoll
Riki Flutey
12 Felipe Contepomi
Josh Lewsey
11 Luke Fitzgerald
Danny Cipriani
10 Isa Nacewa
Eoin Reddan
9 Chris Whitaker
Tim Payne
1 Stan Wright
Rob Webber
2 Bernard Jackman
Phil Vickery (C)
3 CJ van der Linde
Simon Shaw
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Richrd Birkett 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Joe Worsley
6 Rocky Elsom
Serge Betsen
7 Shane Jennings
James Haskell
8 Jamie Heaslip
Replacements Joe Ward (for Webber, 29)
16 John Fogarty (for Jackman, 74)
Tom French
17 Cian Healy (for van der Linde, 18)
Hugo Ellis
18 Trevor Hogan (for Cullen, 18)
Dan Leo (for Payne, 66)
19 Sean O'Brien (for Wright, 38)
Joseph Simpson (for Reddan, 80)
20 Chris Keane
Dan Walder (for Cipriani, 70)
21 Gordon D'Arcy (for O'Driscoll, 55, blood injury) (for Horgan, 60)
Tom Voyce (for Waldouck, 66)
22 Girvan Dempsey (for Nacewa, 79)
Not Considered
due to Injury

  Stephen Knoop (neck)
Officials Referee: Christophe Berdos (FFR)
Assistant Referees: Jean Luc Rebollal (F), Patrick Bellet (F)
4th Official: Stuart Terheege
5th Official: Malcolm Sinclair
TMO: Daniel Gillet (F)

by Sarah Lennon, © 2011-08-23