Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson praised his team-mates’ commitment and professionalism in seeing off a spirited Leicester Tigers fightback on Sunday.
Tries from Christian Wade, Tommy Taylor and Dan Robson gave Wasps a healthy 19-3 lead at half-time, before Tigers, under the watch of new head coach Aaron Mauger, roared back in the second period.
In the end, the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders withstood late Tigers pressure to secure a 22-16 win.
Simpson, capped by England in 2011, believes the commitment, desire and crowd influence got his side over the line at the clash at the Ricoh Arena.
“It’s a local rivalry and we had 27,000 people chanting for us, so I think that was a telling factor,” he said.
“There was probably more tension on the bench and in the crowd rather than on the field. On the field, it was very clear, calm and collected.
“Everyone knew what job they had to do, and we knew how to close out the match.
“Leicester were buoyed by a very successful half-time team talk, they were far more aggressive in and around the ruck, which caused us quite a few problems, which initially we didn’t know how to deal with.
“We didn’t get that good quality ball that would enable us to put them to the sword again in the second half, but you saw what spirited defence the guys had.
— Joe Simpson (@joesimpson9) January 8, 2017
“There were bodies thrown on the line and when you see boys having their faces split open and being knocked out, you see the desire that Wasps had to keep them out, and that was pleasing to see.”
Wasps have been on the shoulder of Saracens at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby for most of the season, but have now replaced Mark McCall’s men at the summit.
Saturday sees Wasps take on Toulouse in a crunch European Champions Cup clash, with both sides, as well as Irish outfit Connacht Rugby, tied on 13 points.
“Toulouse is a huge game for us,” Simpson said. “The last game didn’t go to plan, but we’re basically into knockout rugby now, if we lose this, we’re out of the competition.
“We drew with Toulouse once in a tough old match in the south of France, but we know what we’ve got to do.
“There are two contrasting teams. You’ve got a big, strong French pack who are going to come and try to slow the game down and us who are quick and speedy game and we just need to run them off their feet.”
“We’re hoping for a huge crowd for that too – we’ve had a brilliant couple of games at home, with the crowd against Bath and Leicester.
“That’s been a huge lift for the team, and it really gives a huge buzz and excitement around the place.”