Category: Archive

Ulster stung by Wasps

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Malachy Clerkin


London Wasps 36

Ulster 32

DUBLIN — For a team that had nothing to play for, Wasps certainly gave Ulster a rattling good game at Loftus Road on Sunday and have now pretty much scuppered whatever chance the Northerners had of making the quarterfinal stage of the European Cup rugby competition. It’s still not beyond them, but they now go into this week’s round of games needing other results to go their way if they’re to progress.

But boy, did they give it a go. Trailing by 33-12 2 minutes after halftime, they pulled a rousing comeback out of somewhere and managed to haul themselves back to within a point of Wasps with 5 minutes to go. And then, a spilt ball, a silly offside and an Alex King penalty killed them off.

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Having given Wasps a ferocious hiding in Belfast in October, Ulster went to London knowing that a win was very much within their compass. The architect of the win that night had been David Humphreys, who had set a competition record of 37 points in an individual display of poise and panache. His importance to Ulster was emphasized on Sunday when he had to hobble off injured at halftime. In the second half, sterling though the efforts of Paddy Wallace were, Ulster were a puppet without a string puller.

Humphreys picked up his injury in the run-up to Wasps’ first try. Trevor Leota picked up a loose ball and charged straight at the Irish out-half. As Humphreys went down, the full weight of the Wasps pack trampled over him, and his ankle didn’t survive the onslaught.

Nor did Ulster. After Mark Denney’s try (in the run-up to which Humphreys was hurt), Shane Rosier scored a breakaway effort. All this, added to King’s ever-precise kicking meant that Wasps led 26-12 at halftime. And when, 2 minutes after the break, Wallace had one of those horrible, unthinking moments of madness that seem to pepper his game, and Wasps went 21 points ahead. Wallace tried to sling a long cut-out pass, but Fraser Waters intercepted and raced away to score.

Cue the comeback. Skipper Andy Ward chipped and chased and scored. Ryan Constable streaked clear after being put away by Ward. Wallace began to redeem himself by converting both tries and then dropping a beautiful goal to leave the score at 33-32. Ulster were rampant and in truth, should have won from there.

It wasn’t to be, however, a fact for which they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Leinster postponed

Leinster’s European Cup match against the Newcastle Falcons was postponed for a second time on Sunday, leading the Newcastle director of rugby to accuse Leinster of putting undue pressure on the match referee Gareth Simmonds to call the game off. It had already been postponed on Saturday because the Kingston Park pitch was frozen over, but Newcastle believed it was playable on Sunday and were furious with Leinster’s reluctance to play.

“In my view,” Rob Andrew said, “the pitch was perfectly playable. With all due respect to Gareth Simmonds, I’ve no argument whatsoever with his decision because he was put under a lot of pressure by Leinster. You’ve got on coach saying it’s playable and another saying, ‘I’m not happy and because of injuries you [the referee] might be liable.’ That makes it impossible for the referee to make any other decision and they [Leinster] know that.”

Matt Williams, the Leinster coach, refuted Andrew’s suggestions. “The referee called it off and it was the right decision,” he said. “We were asked for our opinion and our opinion was that the pitch was still frozen in certain areas. If he had passed the pitch fit, we were prepared to play. If anyone says anything different, it’s just sour grapes.”

The game was rescheduled for Tuesday night at Headingly in Leeds.

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