Last gasp win for Wasps at Worcester
Last Sunday saw Wasps Ladies 1s travel away to play Worcester. In the shadow of the Worcester Warriors’ stadium, where London Irish were preparing to take on the home side, Wasps left it late, scoring 3 minutes from the final whistle to beat Worcester 18-14.
Simple rugby was the order of the day; the earlier rain had made the pitch soggy and the ball wet. In spite of the conditions, Wasps made the perfect start to the game. After a midfield battle for possession, Wasps worked the ball to outside centre Michaela Staniford. She used her strength, footwork and pace to find the gaps in Worcester defence, scoring a deserved first try in the corner. The early try seemed to spark the home side into life as they began to put pressure on the Wasps’ attack. Despite the new law keeping the defensive line 5 metres behind the back of the scrum, the Worcester defence gave the Wasps' backs little time on the ball. The pressure on the scrum-half was intense and the ball to the backs was too often disrupted by the opposition scrum-half and loose forwards.
This pressure quickly changed the course of the game as the slippery ball too often evaded the hands of the visiting team. Turnovers were frequent and Worcester used its strike players to good effect, playing their agile full back through the centre of the Wasps' defence. Worcester eventually turned their territorial advantage into points slotting away a penalty kick from inside the 22. Both sides traded turnovers in a scrappy conclusion to the first half. Worcester made the best of their opportunities as an out-of-sorts Wasps hurried their attack and failed to contain Worcester’s direct running style. The Worcester full back again made ground through the middle of the pitch releasing the blind side winger to score in the corner. A further penalty saw Worcester end the half leading 11-5.
The second half began with a little more composure shown by both sides. Heather Fisher, demonstrating her characteristic tenacity and pace, was the stand-out player, trying to encourage Wasps to display some of their undoubted class. Wasps had a stable platform from both scrum and line-out and eventually found space on the wing for Liz Riley to sprint home a well-worked try. However, Worcester continued to pressure Wasps, both in defence and attack. The combination of lively backs and powerful forward runners caused numerous problems for the Wasps’ defence. Both wingers and full back were forced into making some excellent cover tackles. Whilst this was enough to prevent another try, Worcester did score another penalty kick giving them a 4-point lead over their London rivals.
However, with 10 minutes to play the visitors demonstrated why they are such a hard team to beat showing both dogged determination and some of their quality. The boot of fly-half Shelley Rae gave Wasps the positional advantage they needed to turn the game around. It was Rae’s skill that gave Wasps a lifeline. A solid scrum gave her the space she needed to slot home a much needed drop goal. Still one point behind, Wasps needed one more score to win the match. Despite Worcester’s best efforts, the away side refused to give up. More excellent forward work in the scrum and ruck set the platform for the backs. Staniford again made the difference creating the gap for Sue Day to score a superb match-winning try.
Wasps leave it late against Lichfield
Last Sunday, Wasps Ladies 1s hosted Lichfield Ladies at their Acton pitches. Despite being under pressure for large parts of the game, the home side scored two tries in the last 10 minutes to seal victory against a tough Lichfield team.
It was perfect rugby weather; summer seemed to have decided October was the ideal month for it to arrive. Both sides looked keen to play running rugby with both sets of backs getting involved early on. However, Lichfield looked the more promising team at the outset. Their outside centre, Vicki Jackson, broke the Wasps defensive line early in the match, but a superb last ditch tackle prevented the opening try. A break from the fly half again open up the defence, but the rushing Lichfield attack was stopped just before the line and a penalty for holding on let Wasps off the hook.
Against the run of play, it was the home side that secured the first try of the game. Heather Fisher, intelligently reading the play, intercepted a pass bound for the Lichfield 12 and sprinted the length of the field to score. The try did nothing to dampen the visitors’ spirit as they were back in attack straight after the restart. Lichfield had a number of opportunities to score, being held up on the line and missing a kickable penalty. It was only a matter of time before their sustained pressure led to a try, Jackson again breaking the line to score beneath the posts.
The game remained tied at 7-7 for most of the second half. The London side finally seemed to be getting into the game, showing more aggression in defence and invention in attack. Despite this, it just wouldn’t come together for them and a number of penalties hampered their progress. For 20 minutes the better chances fell to Lichfield. Wasps defended stoically as Lichfield fought to break the deadlock using both their strength up front and pace in the backs. Wasps hard work paid off as, with a quarter to go, the match turned in their favour when they successfully defended a Lichfield attack on their own 5 yard line. They took this momentum into the opposition half employing pace on both wings to make the impact.
With 10 minutes to go, the home team finally ended the stalemate, getting it right in both the forwards and the backs. A superb Shelley Rae kick took them into the Lichfield 22. The visitors conceded a rare penalty and from the line out Wasps set a solid drive. The backs got quick ball and moved it quickly through the hands. Full back Sue Day hit the line at pace, bursting through a gap in the defence to score her second match-winning try in as many games.
Wasps wrapped it up 5 minutes from time. With Lichfield pushing hard to level the game before the final whistle, Wasps found some space. Outside centre Michaela Staniford ran a superb line, opening up the defence to put the game beyond Lichfield with a superb try.
It was a frustrating end to the game for Lichfield who dominated for large parts of the match. However, Wasps again showed the determination and attitude that makes them a hard side to beat. Hard work and commitment in the second half got them back into the game and eventually they showed a bit of quality with two well-worked tries sealing victory.
photos Janos Schmidt