Even though the top four nominee's were pretty settled heading into this weekend, that wasn't to say that there were a ton of variables riding on some pretty big clashes this June. Sale vs Exeter would define who got the chance to have a home semi final, Newcastle, Wasps, Leicester, Northampton, Bath and London Irish were all vying for a spot in the Champions Cup and late drama meant that London Irish had no say in their destiny!
Although there has been a pretty clear separation at the top of the league, this season we've seen the tightest mid table scrap in years with some sides undergoing exciting rejuvenations whilst others seemed to plateau after last season's good form. Both these sides represent either end of that spectrum. Wasps, largely due to injury and a huge list of outgoing players confirming their departure earlier on in the season, have been very disappointing this year, scarcely putting on a good performance since their destruction of Bath and Exeter respectively earlier this year. Poor decision making, woefully out of form key players and a breakdown in tactical understanding meant that they barely found momentum even in games they went on to win. Leicester on the other hand look like genuine challengers for next years title, providing that they keep the same group of players injury free. Borthwick has brought a snub-nosed, aggressive, forward dominant attitude back to Welford Road, finally re-stating that Tiger's identity. Both sides have had slight turns in form most recently however, with Wasps putting together an impressive comeback against London Irish last weekend and Leicester experiencing a small dip in form, falling short to Bristol after a controversial finish. Of the two rivals, who would come out on top?
Heading into this game, arguably the least interesting match up on paper was that of Scott vs Fekitoa; both players have shown in glimpses that they have world class qualities in their game, but both have largely underperformed when taking their seasons into context. However, I personally feel that Leicester's centre combination won them the game on the day with Scott in particular taking a his chances clinically. There are a few things that are a certain in Matt Scott's arsenal; he's bulky, he's exceptionally quick over twenty metres and his centre of gravity makes him difficult to make a dominant collision against. He made a handful of clean breaks and finished a great try that really had no right of looking so easy. Fekitoa conversely looked a bit clumsy in that Wasps midfield and seemed to struggle to get his legs going in the tackle. Although he didn't drop much, he did fumble around a little bit in gathering and couldn't get his hands free to offload at all throughout the game; a couple of chances went begging due to his lack of handling. If you take off the tries created through his channel, then Wasps just about edge the game out; it didn't help that Le Bourgeois also seemed to struggle after an early knock left him looking groggy. Wasps did look better when they finally brought Gopperth on who added a bit more zip in the midfield, but for the way Wasps want to play, they sorely missed Odogwu in that outside channel.
Fly Halves SHOULDN'T Take Contact
If the case and point wasn't already confirmed with the physical state that Sexton currently finds himself in, Umaga is going to learn that lesson the hard way very soon. He got absolutely stuffed on a couple of occasion's in which he seemed like he was purposely looking for contract; unfortunately Luke McAlister he is not. After a couple of early big hits from his blindside, he started to look a little bit frantic on the ball, throwing some loopy passes to his already injured centres. What basically summarised his performance was yet another missed kick into touch after a simple penalty that Leicester went on to score from; he's now been responsible for more missed-touches from penalties than any other player in the league, by a comfortable margin too. McPhillips on the other hand barely had a hand on him all game, putting in his best Ford impersonation to date; jokes aside, his place kicking was on point all game, he often created chances with deft passing and didn't put a foot wrong all game. I also thought Henry, with the exception of one glaring mistake, put in a decent shift for his last turn for Leicester, almost acting as a double pivot outside the furthest centre in attack which only added more pace outside of Fekitoa.
We've not been the biggest supporters of Genge's calls for a starting spot in the England side, and although his attacking runs were largely nullified by Shields and co at the weekend, he did eat Wasps up at scrum time. Between Cole and him, they had Brookes and McIntyre on the ropes throughout the hour they spent on the pitch together. Brookes has largely scrummaged well this season, but this is a final game for him to forget before he inevitably trots over to Toulon to pick up that big pay check! Although Leicester didn't have the forward dominance that we've seen in most of their recent matches, they have become a set piece machine and Wasps' slight back row often struggled to keep them contained. However, Will Rowlands did put in a sterling performance for his last game in Black and Gold, disrupting Leicester's good work constantly. All in all, Leicester dominated this aspect of the game, but do need to work on keeping the ball when barrelling forward.
Matt Scott: Very difficult to put in a MOTM performance from Outside Centre, but he stood out as the most prolific player on the pitch. Tackled well, carried effectively and finished a great try.
Dan Cole: He scored! He actually scored! Yeah, he destroyed Wasps' scrum and drove like a truck in the maul.
Ellis Genge: Really strong scrummaging performance again which perhaps shows that his all round game is beginning to ramp up; very effective.
Will Rowlands: Despite the losing effort, he was comfortably Wasps best player on the pitch.
Julian Montoya: The new Argentinian captain put in some barnstorming runs and scored an excellent try himself.
Malakai Fekitoa: Looked out of sorts this game and flat footed in both attack and defence, not a game to remember.
Kieran Brookes: Largely anonymous in the loose and exploited at scrum time, potentially his worst performance in a Wasps jersey, such a shame.
Simon McIntyre: Also bullied at scrum time, just looked unfit unfortunately, perhaps Wasps are calling time at the right point in his career.
Photo Credit @CoventryTelegraph & @BTSport