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London Irish 40 Wasps 40

16 May 2015
London Irish 40 Wasps 40

Andy Short’s late try saw London Irish grab a spectacular draw against a Wasps side who secured a top-six finish in Aviva Premiership Rugby in a pulsating 80-point encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

While potentially not essential, Wasps knew victory would put any chance of qualifying for Europe’s top tier beyond Sale Sharks but got off to a nightmare start as Irish fullback Andrew Fenby touched down early on.

The visitors hit back through Guy Thompson, only to quickly ship another try to the in-form Alex Lewington before Sailosi Tagicakibau’s effort levelled a breathless game at 14-14.

Chris Noakes then claimed an opportunistic try as Andy Goode, making his final Wasps appearance against his future club, traded blows off the tee with Exiles captain Shane Geraghty, the score 22-18 to Irish at the break.

Tagicakibau’s second and Rob Miller’s score seemed to put Wasps out of sight, only for the hosts to respond through James Short and a sublime kicking display from Geraghty.

Haskell led by example to force his way over with just five minutes remaining, only for Geraghty to cap a superb performance with a chip in behind that Short collected to touch down.

Yet the Exiles centre could not land the conversion to secure a win, with both sides settling for a draw and a bonus-point apiece as Sale’s defeat to Exeter Chiefs ensured Wasps’ sixth-place finish.

An early knock on gave Wasps a scrum in the Exiles 22 but the hosts rallied to break down the right and leave the opposition defence scrambling.

A quickly-taken penalty put Wasps further onto the back foot and Fenby took full advantage to score under the posts after just five minutes, with Geraghty converting to give Irish a 7-0 lead.

The visitors eradicated the deficit minutes later though as No.8 Thompson burst through the middle to dot down, with Goode duly adding the extras.

If that should have settled Wasps’ nerves, they were shredded soon after as Lewington grabbed his 12th try of the season, exploiting a quick lineout to cross over, with Geraghty again converting to make it 14-7.

Dai Young’s side were dealt a further blow as Alapati Leiua limped off but the visitors rallied as their much-vaunted back line started to fire.

A rapid miss move featuring Goode and Elliot Daly allowed Wasps to work the space out wide for former Exiles winger Tagicakibau to dive over in the left-hand corner on 26 minutes.

Goode failed to level the tie and Wasps soon found themselves seven points behind again, caught out by a chip in behind by Noakes, who burst through to collect and score – Geraghty missing his conversion.

With half time approaching, Goode made amends to land his first penalty and cut the gap to four points, only for Geraghty to respond with one of his own, restoring the Exiles’ seven-point lead.

Yet the Wasps fly-half had the final word, bisecting the posts with the final kick of the half to make it 22-18 at the interval.

The visitors needed to make a fast start but found themselves further behind moments after the restart as Geraghty landed his second penalty.

Wasps roared back into contention once more through deft work from Haskell and Daly, the latter off-loading for Tagicakibau to grab his second try in the corner and make it 25-23.

Replacement Miller then secured a vital bonus point, cutting inside and breaking through the midfield to dive under the posts, with Goode making no mistake this time as Wasps led 30-25.

After Tom Lindsay left to a standing ovation following more than 11 years of service, his side edged further in front as Goode slotted another three-pointer shortly after the hour.

Yet in a game where momentum veered wildly between the sides, Irish cut the deficit to one point as Short sprinted clear to score in the corner and Geraghty nailed a stunning touchline conversion.

The Exiles captain was on song with the boot but kept his best for the final ten minutes as he belted over a penalty from inside his own half to give his side a 35-33 lead.

Yet there was plenty of drama to come as Haskell forced his way over from close range and Golden Boot winner Goode added the extras.

Geraghty had one last trick up his sleeve though, producing a deft chip that Short collected to touch down only for his captain to miss a tough conversion as time was called on a thrilling contest.

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