Tigers welcomed back star winger Vereniki Goneva with 2 tries in a relaxed 34-8 win against Wasps at a marvellously mild Welford Road. The rugby was as bland as the weather in all honesty but sometimes a nice relaxing win is just what the doctor ordered, especially after the nerve racking encounter with Toulouse just 6 days ago.
The real headlines from the match were the injuries to Tom Croft and the debutant lock Tom Price. Croft left the field after 11 minutes after a heavy contact at a ruck; Cockerill seemed confident it was just a knee in the back and not neck related, I hope he’s right. Price’s injury was a nasty one, knocked out and requiring oxygen on the pitch it took 8 minutes of treatment before he could be stretchered from the field. He is apparently only suffering from a concussion and a sore neck with no major injuries, which is pretty much the best case scenario.
Back to the game itself; Tigers got on the board first when Logovi’i Mulipola peeled round the front of the lineout and Wasps failed to stop him, there was a hint of a double movement but referee Martin Fox was in no doubt so awarded the try.
Tigers looked to play and probably overdid it on a few occasions, just after the try we opened them up again but Scott Hamilton went for the long miss pass rather than straightening and using the men. If his pass had gone to hand Goneva would have surely been in at the corner but it was just too high and the flying Fijian failed to claim it.
They stretched the lead to 10 points when Bowden slotted another penalty after the lengthy stoppage for treatment to Price. The injury took the momentum out of the game so it was undoubtedly the right call to take the points and move on.
It didn’t take Tigers long to score again. Tinus Du Plessis was binned for his side’s persistent offending and with the extra man Tigers had the room to up the tempo. Bowden proved the spark, switching play around the back of the ruck from open to blind, as he used to at London Irish, he exposed Wasps defence and found Michael Noone, on as an early sub for Tom Croft, waiting in acres of space for the easy score.
After the break Scott Hamilton looked to be clear to the line after a smart break by the impressive Andy Forsyth, but perhaps his age caught up with him as he was hauled down just short. It was only a matter of time though as Tigers laid siege to the Wasps line, Sam Harrison coming close to scoring after he charged down Stuart Commins in goal. The score came from Mat Tait showing his pace and timing to hit the gap that was only there for a second then having the gas to finish it off. He certainly is a talent but the question of his whole career has been: just how to use it best?
Tigers 4th try came as Goneva, who had looked a little disinterested in the first half, burst into life. Fraser Balmain got Tigers onto the front foot with a rumbling 30 metre carry with defenders hanging off him, and then Dan Bowden saw the gap in midfield dummying his way through the Wasps line. Goneva was tracking his run on the outside and they exchanged passes before the moved seemed to slow and play went left but Goneva was on hand to take the short pass and finished off the move.
It was that man Goneva again for the 5th, starting the move by tiptoeing along the Crumbie touchline before Scott Hamilton’s zig zag run from half way to the 22 gave Tigers an attacking ruck 15 meters infield. Micky Young attacked the blind side fringe, darting between 2 defenders before passing out of the tackle to Goneva back on the inside line.
Wasps’ scrum was good but they offered little in attack and it was Tigers poor handling that prevented 50 points being reached rather than a rearguard action by the Acton based men. In fairness this was very much a scratch Wasps as they run a very thin squad and had at least 6 players away with various England teams.
Tigers now head to Llanelli to face the Scarlets and with Cardiff, Sale and Worcester all playing on Saturday Tigers will know what they require to make the semi finals going into the game.