From Rugby World reader, Mark Shanahan
I enjoyed a thoroughly contrasting long weekend of rugby over Easter. Keeping up with Saturday from afar, the wins for Leicester and Saints were no surprise and Sarries’ narrow defeat was a bit of a bonus. It set up my own visit to the upper tier of the Frank Adams Stand Adams Park for the Wasps v Irish tie as not just the race for fourth place in the Premiership, but potentially a race for third. Wasps duly turned in their best performance of the season – at least for the first 50 minutes – gaining an unexpected bonus point while denying Toby Booth’s boys even a losing bonus.
In the first half, Wasps kicked away possession only twice and their ball handling and retention were both superb. Trevor Woodman’s work with the much-maligned Black and Gold pack is finally bearing fruit – though the return of key personnel of the calibre of Skivington, Rees and Worsley may have something to do with the improved performance. Meanwhile, Simpson and Walder fizzed at half-back while the rest of the back machine was well-oiled and fully functioning.
But this was a full-blooded contest with a few of the ‘tackles’ well over the legal line. Both Walder and Simpson left the fray early and their replacements, Fury and Cipriani rather lost the plot. Fury’s charged down kicked to a try that was the rugby equivalent to an own-goal. Shaun Edwards immediately hauled him off, replacing him with a winger.
I wonder if we’ll see Fury in a Wasps shirt again? Cipriani was the usual curate’s egg: a brilliant break, some woeful passing and too much brainless kicking. ‘I wish we’d kicked a bit more’ is a phrase you’ll never hear from fans or coaches – but it’s a lesson this prodigiously gifted 10 still needs to learn.
Anyway, 24 hours on, I was on the touchline in leafy Henley to watch Wasps As take on their Saracens Storm counterparts. Unlike the Wasps/Irish encounter, this was men against boys – literally. A very unfamiliar Wasps side, bolstered by three boys from the Dubai Academy and a teenage protégé of Serge Betsen took on a well-drilled Saracens outfit featuring a pair of Fijian triallists as well as the far-from-teenage Moses Rauluni.
Actually, it was two of Sarries’ youngsters who really caught the eye: George Kruis, a 20 year old lock was in rampaging form, while 18 year old centre, Own Farrell (yep, son of Andy) already looks and sounds like a future England centre…perhaps, one day, a future England captain? The match lacked the intensity and presence of a Premiership clash, but was absorbing nonetheless – there certainly seems to be some terrific talent emerging from the Academy system.