Bassett's strike steer Wasps into final
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Josh Bassett’s last-gasp score booked Wasps’ first Premiership Rugby Final appearance in four years after overcoming Leicester Tigers 21-20 in another stunning semifinal clash.
The hosts held a slender 16-13 lead after a feisty first half, with the boot of Jimmy Gopperth edging them ahead after Kurtley Beale and Peter Betham traded scores.
And despite a dogged backs-to-the-wall performance from Tigers in the second half after Telusa Veainu put them ahead, Bassett came off the bench to win it for Wasps with a minute remaining and lift the lid off the Ricoh Arena.
It was Tigers’ fourth straight defeat in Premiership Rugby semifinals, while Wasps kept their remarkable 100 percent winning record at home this season intact.
It was Wasps who drew first blood after just two minutes as the Tigers were penalised for offside and Gopperth nailed a 45-metre kick.
Ben Youngs made a delightful half-break for Tigers two minutes later, but then miscued his kick into touch, and it was the hosts who grabbed the game’s first try shortly after.
It was a box office score from the star-studded Wasps backline, as they put the ball through the hands and – after beating a defender on the left wing – Willie Le Roux fed Beale inside him to score with Gopperth converting.
Freddie Burns got the Tigers on the board with two quickfire penalties before the 20-minute mark as Wasps’ ill-discipline at the breakdown cost them, the second from right out on the left touchline.
Gopperth won a penalty soon after and smacked it straight through the posts again to extend the advantage, but the Tigers bounced back with a superb score.
Leicester put the ball through the hands and surged up the field, with Owen Williams and Adam Thompstone making initial breaks, before Burns put a sublime pass over the Wasps defence and there was Betham to score.
Burns’ conversion levelled the scores at 13-13, and although Daly’s excellent kick into the corner paved the way for another Wasps chance, Gopperth’s radar was slightly out as his penalty crashed into the post and went wide when the Tigers hauled down a lineout drive on the 22.
It looked like the sides would be going in for half-time level, but after Tigers were penalised for obstruction and Ellis Genge’s protestations cost his side ten yards, Gopperth’s sweetly-struck penalty handed his side a narrow advantage.
The hosts were dealt a blow shortly after the interval as Beale was forced off injured with Josh Bassett replacing him, and Tigers then took the lead for the first time in the game on 51 minutes.
It was a relentless attack from the Tigers, and after Mike Williams and Brendan O’Connor both made good carries, the ball was spun left for Veainu to fly over the whitewash.
Wasps then burst into life, with Gopperth, Danny Cipriani and Christian Wade all advancing, but Veainu intercepted and ran the ball back menacingly before he was forced into touch.
Wasps kept that ball in the hands and played some thrilling free-flowing rugby, but determined defending in their own half from Tigers kept them at bay.
Thomas Young found a hole on 73 minutes and broke through the defence, but could not find Gopperth racing up on his shoulder.
A scrum penalty five minutes from time allowed Wasps to pile on the pressure, and after hammering away from five metres out, finally, the Tigers’ defences were breached.
It had been coming and Gopperth put in Bassett in the left corner to score the decisive try, and while the centre then slipped and missed the conversion, it did not matter as Wasps kept the ball for the minute that remained.
Man of the match: Leicester Tigers fullback Telusa Veainu, who just exploited the space out wide with his pace on attack and kept Wasps' attack out with his try-saving tackles in his own 22. However our award goes to Wasps centre Jimmy Gopperth, who spearheaded most of his side's attack.
Tries: Beale, Bassett
Pens: Gopperth 2
For Leicester Tigers:
Tries: Bethem, Veainu
Cons: Burns 2
Pens: Burns 2
Wasps: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Willie Le Roux, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Josh Bassett
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Brendon O’Connor, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Greg Bateman, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Mike Williams, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jack Roberts, 23 Matt Smith
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant referees: Thomas Foley, Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff