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Wasps Lift The Heineken Cup

Wasps Lift The Heineken Cup

An extraordinary injury-time Robert Howley try gave London Wasps a 27-20 win over Toulouse in the final of the Heineken Cup in Twickenham on Sunday.

An extraordinary injury-time Robert Howley try gave London Wasps a 27-20 win over Toulouse in the final of the Heineken Cup in Twickenham on Sunday.

With the sides tied at 20 points apiece, Howley gathered a 22 drop-out, hacked a ball along the touchline, deep into the Toulouse 22. It seemed to be well covered by full-back Clement Poitrenaud who sheperded the ball over the line only for Howley to pounce and get the touchdown, a score that did need the confirmation from the video ref. Mark Van Gisbergen landed the touchline conversion.

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It was a sensational finish to a totally absorbing game. The match stats will probably show that Toulouse dominated territory and possession but they were unable to capitalise against a Wasps side whose defence was top notch. And the difference between the two sides was that Wasps made the most of their infrequent visits to the Toulouse 22.

For all the talk of French backline flair, Toulouse relied mainly on their forwards to gain yards while their backs were only seen at their best in broken play. And when coach Guy Noves looks back on this game he will probably wonder why he persisted with Yann Delaigue for so long.

Although Wasps made the early running, it was Toulouse who were first on the board when out-half Delaigue – who looked totally out of place in this company – kicked a 6th minute penalty after Josh Lewsey was pinged for offside. Delaigue made it six nil with his second penalty five minutes later but Wasps were scored the first try when Stuart Abbott ran in minutes after Van Gisbergen had kicked a penalty. Van Gisbergen landed the conversion but Toulouse continued to show the greater flair and that was rewarded in the 36th minute when Delaigue crashed over on the right after some delightful French ball handling. He missed that conversion but more significantly it was a penalty miss earlier that one felt might come back to haunt him and his French compatriots.

Into the second half and Wasps scored their second try when Alex King broke from his own 22 and when he ran out of gas, Van Gisbergen was on his shoulder to continue on to the posts and a seven pointer for Wasps.(20-11).

Minutes after that Toulouse had the opportunity to close the gap when they were awarded a penalty but this time it was Cedric Heymans who was entrusted with the kick and his effort was truly appalling. Just as appalling was Delaigue’s drop-goal attempt moments later and with Toulouse bereft of a goal kicker Wasps continued to give away penalties at the breakdown.

Not surprisingly Delaigue was hauled ashore in the 52nd minute to be replaced by Jean-Baptiste Elissalde who went to scrum half with Michalack moving to number 10.

Finally in the 56th minute Rolland lost patience with the Wasps infringements and captain Lawrence Dallaglio was yellow carded for – according to Rolland – two infringements. Michalack kicked the penalty to leave just a score separating the sides (20-14).

Importantly, while Dallaglio was in the bin, Toulouse only managed that Michalack penalty and when he returned you felt the French had missed their chance.

The excitement continued. Wasps came upfield, King struck the upright with a drop-goal. Back came Toulouse. Heymans beat the cover down the left and raced clear but Dallaglio denied them by taking out the support player and when Wasps conceded yet another penalty Michalack converted the penalty to leave three points separating the sides with six minutes to go.

Replacement Ellisalde was on target with a long-range penalty to tie the game 20 points apiece and extra-time beckoned.

Then the sensational finish, Howley gathered the 22 drop-out, lashed the ball down the touchline – probably looking more for safety rather than anything else – and the unfortunate Poitrenaud, who had hardly put a foot wrong all day, was caught napping by the wily Welshman.

London Wasps: M Van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, F Waters, S Abbott, T Voyce; A King, R Howley; T Payne, T Leota, W Green, S Shaw, R Birkett, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley.

Toulouse: C Poitrenaud; E Ntamack (V Clerc), Y Jauzion, C Desbrosse, C Heymans; Y Delaigue J-B Ellisalde), F Michalak; P Collazo, W Servat (Y Bru), J-B Poux, F Pelous (capt), T Brennan (D Gerard), F Maka, J Bouilhou, C Labit (I Maka).
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland).