Dominic Waldouck made the most of an unexpected call-up and inspired Wasps’ return to the top of the Guinness Premiership with a third consecutive victory, beating Worcester 23-3 on Sunday.
The England Saxons centre, only included in the side on Sunday morning after Steve Kefu was ruled out with a groin injury, played a key role in both Wasps tries.
Serge Betsen touched down in the first half and Tom Varndell rounded off the victory in the last minute with his 50th Guinness Premiership try. Danny Cipriani added 13 points with the boot as Wasps moved back above London rivals Saracens, the only other unbeaten club, on points difference.
Waldouck was named man of the match for a performance that would have caught the eye of England’s coaches, who are searching for an inside centre following Riki Flutey’s injury. There was also a welcome return to action for Paul Sackey following the broken leg he suffered during the RBS 6 Nations, though he had little opportunity to press his own Test claims in a stodgy game of few openings.
What chances there were, were created by Wasps with Australian centre Ben Jacobs and Varndell both heavily involved in an enterprising opening. Jacobs twice broke the Worcester defence with powerful runs, the first on to a delightful flat pass from Cipriani before Varndell left flanker Tom Wood standing with an electric break down the wing.
Wasps then twice spurned a penalty shot at goal in favour of the lineout but Worcester defended well, first keeping out George Skivington and then securing a turnover to clear their lines. But Wasps continued to dominate and Waldouck raced on to a pass from Cipriani to carve his way through a giant gap in the Worcester defence.
Chris Latham caught Waldouck with a tap tackle but he popped the ball up for the marauding Betsen, who scored next to the posts and presented Cipriani with a simple conversion. Latham attempted to spark a Worcester response with a glorious take under the high ball but the Warriors could not break Wasps down.
The first quarter of the second half was a cagey affair. Worcester fly-half Willie Walker, who had missed a first-half penalty, scuffed a drop-goal attempt but the Warriors threatened with little else. Wasps could not get going either. Sackey was a virtual spectator until he combined with Varndell, who arrowed towards the line, after Cipriani had launched a swift attack.
Varndell was halted but Wasps drew the penalty and Cipriani picked himself up from the floor, having received treatment for a hip injury suffered in the move, to slot the points. Cipriani took another blow later in the game but he continued and drilled two drop goals either side of a penalty from Walker to seal the victory for Wasps.
Varndell then applied the coup de grace in the final minute after Waldouck had launched a counter-attack and then angled his kick infield. Varndell gathered and had a clear run for the line to score his fifth try in three games since moving from Leicester in the summer.