Andy Goode’s late penalty means that London Wasps will head to Paris with a one-point lead after a dramatic victory over Stade Francais in the first leg of their Rugby Champions Cup play-off.
The two sides that finished seventh in their respective divisions came into the clash knowing that the Adams Park first leg could prove decisive.
Zak Taulafo crossed early on for the visitors but scores from Tom Varndell, Ashley Johnson and Joe Simpson as well as superb goalkicking from Goode meant Wasps were nearly always in front.
But the Parisians refused to buckle and added to Taulafo’s score through Djibril Camara, Jerome Fillol and Waisea Nayacalevu to go ahead in the closing stages.
But there was still time for Goode to slot a late penalty and ensure that Wasps take a one point lead to Paris for next week’s delicately-poised second leg.
Wasps started perfectly as Goode opened up the scoring with a second-minute penalty while the French outfit looked rattled, losing flanker Sylvain Nicolas to injury in the opening exchanges and then seeing scrum-half Julien Dupuy fire two long-range penalties wide.
But the French visitors were starting to string some phases together and it was Gonzalo Quesada’s side that scored the game’s first try, former Wasps man Taulafo stretching out to dot down after the forwards had battered their way up to the try line.
Dupuy made no mistake this time with the conversion and the French side were 7-3 to the good.
Goode slotted his second penalty of the day as Wasps looked to wrestle back momentum to close the gap to 7-6 while Morne Steyn pulled a long-distance drop goal attempt narrowly wide at the other end.
Indeed wayward kicking was coming back to haunt the visitors and just before the half-hour mark Wasps hit the front.
Elliot Daly had already impressed with some classy touches in midfield before he threw a long miss pass out to the left wing and Varndell needed no second invitation, bursting onto the ball and around full-back Hugo Bonneval for their first try.
Goode’s tough touchline conversion bisected the posts as well and Wasps were 13-7 in front and deservedly so.
But no sooner had Wasps grabbed some breathing space than they let their visitors back into the contest as Camara raced over down the left all too easily to bring Stade right back into it at 13-12, Dupuy missing with the extras.
Wasps came very close to a second score just before the interval but both Will Helu and James Haskell were dragged into touch with the try line beckoning.
After half time Haskell dived on a loose ball and sprinted clear for what looked like a try, but it was ruled out for a Tom Palmer knock on in the build-up.
However, the hosts did not have to wait long. And it was Haskell’s back-row partner Ashley Johnson that did the damage, bursting over to open up a 20-12 lead following Goode’s accurate conversion.
But Stade were not finished and with the hour mark approaching the French side was enjoying their most consistent spell of pressure in the entire match.
And when Dupuy tapped and went with the try line close at hand Haskell tackled him without retreating and found himself sent to the sin bin.
Dupuy slotted the penalty to make it a five-point game and Wasps had a long way to hold out with a one man disadvantage.
But rather than retreat into their shell, Wasps grabbed a third try soon after as scrum-half Simpson showed his superb turn of pace to race all the way clear from his own half after collecting Nathan Hughes’ offload.
Goode continued his flawless kicking to add the extras and Wasps were finally starting to stretch the lead at 27-15.
But once again Stade found an immediate response as replacement Fillol burst clear after Simpson’s box kick was charged down to score in the left corner, the scrum-half’s conversion then adding the conversion for a 27-22 scoreline.
For all their pressure Wasps would have wanted something more than the five-point lead to take to Paris but in the blink of an eye they were soon behind and it was a stunner.
Stade centre Nayacalevu collected the ball in his own half and having used his power to break the line, the centre showed great pace to race all the way in under the posts.
Fillol put the simple conversion over and the French side were in front all of a sudden with less than ten minutes remaining.
But Wasps came back one final time and after winning a penalty in front of the posts it was left to Goode to slot a conversion that gives Wasps what could prove to be a vital one-point win.