Wasps made hard work of overcoming GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP bottom club Leeds Carnegie 25-17 after dominating the first hour.
Losers of their last 11 away games in the league, the visitors looked dead and buried at 25-3 down but rallied with two converted tries and, with three minutes remaining, almost scored another through winger Tom Biggs.
England wing Paul Sackey and centre Riki Flutey came to Wasps’ rescue then to deny Leeds, but the home side were left shaking their heads that they not secured a bonus point.
Everyone expected a routine afternoon for Wasps captain Lawrence Dallaglio in his first match since calling a halt to his England career and far tougher tests certainly lie ahead if he is to go out of all rugby at the end of the season with another trophy.
Dallaglio knows Wasps will certainly have to play better for that to happen.
The European champions, however, have now lost only one of their last 11 matches in all competitions after a desperately disappointing start to the season.
Right from the start, it was clear there was a gulf in class, despite Wasps being forced into a late change when full-back Mark Van Gisbergen injured a hamstring, although all they had to show for the first 19 minutes were two Danny Cipriani penalties.
Leeds had not beaten Wasps in their 10 previous attempts and any thoughts they might change that were virtually extinguished when flanker Joe Worsley – playing his first club game since the World Cup final after a hamstring injury – and Fraser Waters went over for tries before the interval.
Worsley was in support to make the most of a superb break by Irish scrum-half Eoin Reddan, while centre Waters finished off a move that had seen Worsley provide the initial burst.
Josh Lewsey, who switched from left wing to full-back because of Van Gisbergen’s withdrawal, took it on and stand-off Cipriani accepted the pass, spun and found Waters outside him 10 metres from the line.
England hopeful Cipriani converted only the first of the touchdowns to make it 18-0.
In first-half injury-time, Leeds at last opened their account when full-back Leigh Hinton, having missed one easier chance, landed a penalty from close to the left touchline.
It again took Wasps a little while to get going after the interval, but Reddan’s neat inside pass after 47 minutes allowed Lewsey to go through under the posts, Cipriani converting before being replaced just four minutes later.
It looked game over at 25-3, but Leeds had other ideas and in a spirited revival cut the gap to eight points thanks to tries from Mike Macdonald – Wasps could not believe it was awarded in the corner, with Dallaglio indicating to referee David Rose that the prop had a foot in touch – and then scrum-half Joe Bedford.
The conversions both came from replacement Alberto Di Bernardo but, try as they did, Leeds could not get any closer.