Wasps were forced to withstand a ferocious Leicester Tigers comeback but hung on for a 22-16 victory at the Ricoh Arena to return to the summit of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
First-half tries from Christian Wade, Tommy Taylor and Dan Robson looked to have sewn up the game with the home side 19-0 up.
But Leicester worked their way back into it, and with a try from Peter Betham and the boots of Owen Williams and Freddie Burns, they got back to within three.
That was as good as it got however and Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty late on sealed the win for the home side, who move back ahead of Saracens at the top of the table.
Wasps made the perfect start as Wade went over after just four minutes. Elliot Daly was the provider, playing a delicate grubber that caught out Williams, and the opportunistic Wade was able to beat Freddie Burns to the ball and dot down. Jimmy Gopperth slotted the conversion to make it 7-0.
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) January 8, 2017
Leicester were struggling to impose themselves with Wasps forwards and backs combining brilliantly to put them under regular pressure.
And the pack took their chance on ten minutes, showing plenty of patience with a rolling maul to send Taylor over for a second try.
Despite Gopperth’s missed conversion, Wasps were still in control, and it almost got even better when Beale got away down the left, but this time the covering defence held.
The left wing was providing Wasps with plenty of joy however, and a break on that side set up their third. Thomas Young started it, racing away from a ruck before finding Josh Bassett inside him. The winger was stopped about 15 metres out, but the Wasps support was there quickest, and Robson, spotting Dan Cole in front of him, sniped straight over. Gopperth’s conversion stretched the lead to 19-0.
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) January 8, 2017
Leicester needed a spark, and almost got it when Burns played a little chip over the defence and collected, but his pass to Mike Fitzgerald outside him was batted down by Kurtley Beale. Williams slotted the resulting penalty, with the Tigers going in 16 points down at the break.
Williams added a second penalty early in the second half as Guy Thompson was penalised at the breakdown, with Leicester looking to edge their way back into the contest.
Their comeback attempt was almost thwarted when Adam Thompstone’s kick was caught by Beale who looked to be away. Unfortunately for the Australian, Leicester had knock-on advantage and got the ball back.
They made the most of that reprieve, scoring a first try of the game through centre Peter Betham. It wasn’t a typical backs try, rather power from close range after Tom Brady had been stopped just short of the line. Burns slotted the conversion to get the visitors back to within a score with half an hour remaining.
Leicester almost had a second try a couple of minutes later when Matt Smith thought he was over on the left, but his foot had just strayed into touch before he could dot down.
Still, Wasps were under pressure having seen their lead evaporate, and weren’t helped by losing James Haskell within a minute of coming on as he got his head on the wrong side while making a tackle and had to come off.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) January 8, 2017
However Leicester’s comeback attempt took a hit when they lost Cole for ten minutes in the bin as he knocked the ball away from Joe Simpson. Gopperth slotted the resulting penalty to ease Wasps nerves.
Bassett almost got their bonus point when he was just beaten to a kick through from Beale by Will Evans and they were again denied from a rolling maul which Leicester managed to hold up over the line.
There was still time for Leicester to come back, but successive knock-ons from Evans and then Betham cost them a last chance of sneaking the win.