The electric Christian Wade went try-for-try with his wing partner Tom Varndell – both crossing for doubles – as the lethal Wasps wide men combined to great effect in a 29-19 Aviva Premiership win over London Welsh.
Wade’s second, a long range effort that left Welsh defenders in the dust, provided the highlight and a reminder to the England selectors who omitted him this week, but a gritty Welsh performance saw the away side unlucky not to earn a bonus point.
Wade and Varndell have now combined for 11 tries this year in a potent Wasps attack that ranks third in points scored – and the win lifts Dai Young’s side to seventh in the Aviva Premiership table.
A Gordon Ross penalty with the clock ticking down looked to have given London Welsh a precious away bonus point – but Wasps’ Welshman Nick Robinson’s late response from the tee ensured the promoted side were unable to capitalise on losses by fellow bottom three sides London Irish and Sale this weekend.
Wasps stung the visitors early – under pressure on their own scrum just outside of the Welsh 22, a flick from number eight Billy Vunipola went to ground but the bouncing ball undid the Welsh defensive line.
Scooped up by returning scrum-half Joe Simpson, he found Varndell who cut open the broken-field defence before feeding Wade to go over for his fourth of the year.
Fly-half Robinson missed on the touchline conversion but stroked a penalty five minutes later from in 30 metres to stretch the lead to eight.
In his first real act of the half Welsh fly-half Gavin Henson faced the jeers of the Adams Park crowd as he missed a long range penalty attempt, but he made amends on 20 minutes after the Wasps back three put themselves in trouble.
And Henson came up with a crucial play on defence with ten minutes to play before half-time – coming up with a big cover tackle that knocked the ball free after Kiwi flanker Jonathan Poff cut open the Welsh defence and was bearing down on the line.
However the home side continued to build pressure, and as Henson attempted to clear his lines several phases later, Welsh were hit with a trademark Wasps counter-attack. Marco Wentzel slipped a precise offload in midfield to open up space for Wade, who this time put in Varndell – who had tracked across from his own wing – to scorch home from 30 metres.
Robinson was again unsuccessful with the wide conversion attempt and Henson’s boot made him pay, knocking over a penalty from the halfway line to keep his team within a score.
Lee Thomas responded on the last play with a well-hit drop-goal to put Wasps went in 16-6 ahead, but his strike was overshadowed by the sight of Simpson being stretchered off with what looked like a right knee injury.
After a scrappy opening to the second-half – and Henson’s third penalty miss – Wade lit up Adams Park again with an electric long range effort. With the Welsh defence shepherding Robinson wide, Wade cut back, taking a switch ball before stepping the cover and going past ex-Wasps full-back Tom Voyce untouched.
The Exiles answered – working into the Wasps 22 – New Zealander Tyson Keats put fellow Kiwi, wing Phil Mackenzie, over in the corner. Henson missed his touchline effort, keeping the gap at ten points, 21-11.
An impressive Scott kick-chase caught Wade isolated, gifting Henson another shot with 20 to play but his strike drifted wide of the right post, with a Robinson attempt doing the same minutes later, albeit from a tougher angle.
Not to be out-done by his strike partner, Varndell went over for his second, his sixth of the year, with fifteen minutes to play – finishing in the corner after a good spell of Wasps pressure.
The Exiles response was immediate – on a rare second-half visit into the Wasps 22, they once again came away with points – this time prop Franck Montanella powering over in the midst of a well-organised driving maul.
Ross, coming on at 10 as Henson shifted to full-back slotted a penalty with three minutes to play, but Robinson hit back immediately putting the final stamp on the 29-19 win.