Wasps signed off their Heineken Cup campaign with a dramatic victory over French giants Toulouse courtesy of a last-minute try from wing David Lemi.
Toulouse played the last 32 minutes with 14 men after centre Florian Fritz was sent-off for a dangerous tackle on Tom Varndell. If it was a debatable decision from referee Alain Rolland, Fritz’s gesture as he left the field is sure to be investigated by the authorities.
Wasps led 13-7 at half-time after Richard Haughton cancelled out Yannick Jauzion’s brilliant opening try. Toulouse were already assured of a quarter-final place but needed a victory to progress as top seeds, and they fought back to draw level at 16-16 with three penalties from David Skrela.
But with less than a minute remaining, Lemi raced clear and beat Nicolas Vergallo to the touch-down as Wasps snatched the victory. It was not enough to keep them in the tournament. Tony Hanks’ men knew before kick-off their hopes had been extinguished after the Scarlets’ defeat at Perpignan earlier in the day.
Wasps will now head into the Amlin Challenge Cup, where they will face Harlequins, but they have knocked Toulouse’s own Heineken Cup chances. Toulouse knew a victory with at least two tries would land them that top seeding and a home quarter-final. Instead they face an away quarter-final against Biarritz.
After a scrappy start, including a missed penalty from Skrela, Toulouse showed a glimpse of their star quality with a sublime try from Jauzion. Clement Poitrenaud sparked the move with a brilliant high-ball take and off-load, which put Maxime Medard into space before Jauzion brushed off three defenders to score.
Wasps lost full-back Mark Van Gisbergen to a head injury and Toulouse seemed to be cruising to an inevitable victory as they bossed possession and territory. But Wasps began to gain a foothold with Wales number eight Andy Powell once again in inspirational form and Walder reduced the arrears with a long-range penalty.
Toulouse were then reduced to 14 men when Louis Picamoles was sin-binned for his role in a touchline scuffle and Wasps took full advantage.
Within six minutes, Van Gisbergen’s replacement Haughton raced onto an inside ball from Walder and scored next to the posts. Walder converted and then added a second penalty following a high tackle on Joe Simpson as Wasps took a 13-7 lead into the interval.
Picamoles had only just returned when Toulouse were reduced to 14 men permanently, with Fritz given his marching orders for a dump tackle on Wasps wing Tom Varndell. Walder slotted his penalty attempt from wide on the left and Wasps had their tails up. Powell led the charge with a series of dynamic runs but Wasps could not break the Toulouse rear-guard.
And the French edged their way back into it, helped by Serge Betsen’s sin-binning. Skrela landed two more penalties to draw Toulouse level at 16-16.
Wasps kept pressing and when Lemi skipped into space the try was there for the taking but the wing slipped. Varndell tried to finish off the move but he was caught and Toulouse turned over possession. Skrela missed with a 75th-minute drop-goal effort and just as the game seemed destined for a draw, Lemi chased down his own kick forward to snatch the victory for Wasps.