Leicester Tigers’ hopes of reaching the Premiership ‘A’ League semi-finals were dealt a blow with a 47-21 defeat against Wasps on Monday evening.
In a fixture moved to the artificial pitch at Aylesbury RFC and played in biting cold conditions, Tigers were outscored seven tries to three, allowing Wasps to draw level on points in the northern conference table behind leaders Northampton and second-placed Newcastle Falcons with three rounds still to play.
Tigers included five members of the team that won the Under-18 Academy League Final last weekend with Henri Lavin, Taylor Gough and Thom Smith starting in the back row and academy colleagues Xander Purcell and Andre Dunn among the replacements.
Wasps claimed the opening score with a try for hooker TJ Harris from a catch-and-drive lineout move just five minutes into the contest and, although fly-half Jacob Umaga put his conversion kick wide, he was on target from each of their other scores on the evening against his former club.
Students scrum-half Ben Pointon levelled the scores when he dotted down from close range after 12 minutes on the back of a strong carry from prop Facundo Gigena, and the conversion from Ford, judging a troublesome wind perfectly, put Tigers in front.
Good work from Charlie Thacker and teenage flanker Gough nullified a dangerous attack from the hosts and earned a penalty which Ford booted up to halfway, but Tigers were back on the defensive soon afterwards, only for Wasps to loose control of the ball close to the tryline.
Smith, playing at centre, then put Tigers back in front with an interception try, picking off a pass on the 10-metre line and running clear to score and Ford converted for a 14-5 lead approaching the half-hour mark.
That was, though, the final score registered by the visitors until the closing 10 minutes of the game, during which time Wasps kept the scoreboard ticking and picked up their try bonus point on the way.
First, lock Marcus Garratt dropped over the line on the half-hour and prop George Thornton showed good pace to score on the left, with Umaga adding the conversions for a 19-14 lead at half-time.
Emerging back into the cold for the second half, Wasps were quickly back on the attack, prop Will Stuart dotting down after good work from front-row colleague Harris, and five minutes later Connor Eastgate ran on to a break from scrum-half Craig Hampson to score. Umaga added the extras to stretch the lead to 33-14.
With both sets of coaches spreading gametime among their squad and using the bench, Tigers had all five of their Under-18 League winners on the field together for the final quarter of the match.
Hampson added try number six and then replacement prop Jack Higgins provided the finish to a lineout drive as the advantage reached 47-14.
Tigers were not done, though, with a period of pressure from the forwards finally rewarded with a score wide on the left for wing Bamidale Fadahunsi, which Ford converted with a perfectly-judged kick in the final score of an entertaining contest in testing conditions.
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth (c), 14 Will Foster (Loughborough Students), 13 Matt Smith, 12 Charlie Thacker, 11 Bamidele Fadahunsi (Loughborough Students), 10 Joe Ford, 9 Ben Pointon (Loughborough Students); 1 Facundo Gigena, 2 Jack Dickinson (Hinckley RFC), 3 Pat Cilliers, 4 Joe Maksymiw, 5 B J Edwards, 6 Henri Lavin, 7 Taylor Gough, 8 Thom Smith
Replacements: 16 Harry Mahoney, 17 Owen Hills, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Xander Purcell, 20 Ollie Kilgallon (Loughborough Students), 21 Will Findlay (Loughborough Students), 22 Andre Dunn, 23 Jonathan Hughes (Loughborough Students)
Wasps: 15 Ollie Bluck, 14 Tom Stileman (Oxford University), 13 Guy Armitage, 12 Connor Eastgate, 11 Owain James, 10 Jacob Umaga, 9 Craig Hampson; 1 George Thornton, 2 T J Harris, 3 Will Stuart, 4 Marcus Garratt, 5 Cameron Gray (Coventry), 6 James Seabrook, 7 Will Owen, 8 George Cox (Nottingham)
Replacements: 16 Aaron Thompson (Bishop Burton College), 17 Jack Higgins (Coventry), 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Paul Hamber (Bishop Burton College), 20 Alex Salt (Hinckley), 21 Fransico Viera (Rotherham), 22 Josh Thiel (Bishop Burton College), 23 Tom Bacon