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Wasps director of rugby Dai Young has branded their crucial European Rugby Champions Cup clash with Toulouse as a ‘cup final’.
The Coventry club sit top of Pool 2 but are level on 13 points with Connacht and the four-time champions of Europe, who travel to the Ricoh Arena this weekend. Wasps were cruelly denied victory at the Sportsground last time out, when Jack Carty’s conversion of Naulia Dawai’s try saw Dai Young’s side go down 20-18.
Toulouse, who drew 13-13 with Wasps in the reverse fixture, stayed in the quarter-final race with back-to-back bonus-point wins over Zebre. They head back into Champions Cup action on the back of an 18-15 triumph over Stade Francais in Paris, with Yoann Huget crossing for a brace of tries.
But Wasps are flying. They have won all three of their matches since their Sportsground heartbreak. And Young has fired up his troops for their must-win Anglo-French fixture.
He said: “It’s another massive game next week, this time in Europe. It’s a cup final sort of game given how tight Pool 2 is, with three teams tied on points. It’s also a tight six-day turnaround for that one. The crowd here today was phenomenal and we’re really hoping for a similar turnout from our Wasps’ supporters again on Saturday, as it makes a huge difference having them behind us.”
Young is sweating on the fitness of England back-rower James Haskell. The flanker was only 35 seconds into his comeback from a six month layoff with a toe injury. But he was knocked unconscious when attempting to tackle Tigers’ fly-half Freddie Burns and did not return to action. And Wasps will not risk their star man if he is not ready.
Young added: “He's probably doubtful, he's still with the medics today. I think he'd really have to tick all the boxes so it's unlikely he's going to be fit – although he's not ruled out.”
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Dan Robson’s quick thinking at the death earned Wasps a dramatic 17-14 triumph over Toulouse in a classic European Rugby Champions Cup battle.
It looked as if Toulouse would snatch control of the Pool 2 quarter-final race when their powerful pack earned a penalty try in the final 10 minutes. But Robson had the speed of though to take a quick tap penalty and burrow over the line to snatch a crucial victory at the death.
Toulouse struck first in the second-half after only three points separated the sides at the break. Yoann Huget wrestled the ball down over the line after a Thierry Dusautoir break, but they were soon behind again after Elliot Daly’s breakaway try before the late drama.
Connacht top the standings after five rounds, but face a trip to a hurting Toulouse side next week. Wasps only have to beat winless Zebre in Italy to advance.
Wasps had a golden chance to score in the opening exchanges after Jimmy Gopperth’s perfectly weighted kick sent Christian Wade flying down his right wing. Wade passed inside to Kurtley Beale, who was caught as he tried to cut inside to the posts. The ball was worked to Josh Bassett, but somehow Wasps failed to get over the line.
Jean Marc Doussain wasted two penalty opportunities that would have given Toulouse a 6-0 lead. But Gopperth showed him how it is done after half-an-hour when he split the uprights with his first kick of the game. And it remained 3-0 until half-time – the lowest total Wasps have scored in a Champions Cup match at the Ricoh Arena.
Toulouse are no strangers to tight European contests, and wrestled the lead back from Wasps after 52 minutes. Dusautoir made the initial break in centre-field before the ball was worked to Huget, who barged over the line and got the ball down over the line for his sixth try in as many matches.
But the Ricoh Arena was sent into raptures when Wasps finally unlocked the uncompromising Toulouse defence. Daly received the ball, jinked past Dusautoir in midfield and sprinted 40 metres to score at the posts. Gopperth added the extras to give the hosts a 10-7 advantage with 17 minutes to play.
Toulouse looked to have snatched it in the final 10 minutes. The Wasps scrum disintegrated under some heavy pressure to allow the visitors to rumble towards the line. Danny Cipriani came in at the side to steal the ball illegally and referee John Lacey awarded a penalty try and sent Cipriani to the sin-bin. Doussain landed the conversion to give Toulouse a 14-10 lead.
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