Wasps stay in hunt for Europe despite Morris red in win over Worcester


Not exactly a game to raise anyone out of the seat. Wasps will be happy enough. They maintain their hunt for a place in Europe next season, but this was a match to elicit nothing more than idle daydreams about the future.

The home team became the latest side to prevail despite rugby’s lottery by red card. Ben Morris was sent off in the final quarter for a high tackle, with Wasps trailing, but they managed to score in his absence. Before long, Worcester joined them down to 14, courtesy of a yellow in the final 10 minutes. The extra space on the field was not effectively utilised, it would be fair to say.

The prospects were never rosy for this one. Worcester’s season effectively ended some time ago, so far adrift are they of their nearest rival at the foot of the table. Without the virus, which is responsible for two of their three wins this season, they would be even further off.

Theirs is just the sort of case the hawkish in English sport, which seems to be the vast majority, would like to see punished with relegation. Certainly, they are not bringing much to the party at the moment, but then they were not a whole lot better when they did have something to play for. A one-point home win against London Irish on the first weekend of the season is their only real-life victory so far.

But neither side settled into this one. The only participant to look comfortable in the first half was the rain, which did settle with a vengeance for the first 40. Worcester’s problems intensified early on. An early penalty from Billy Searle, once of this parish, belied their fortunes. As he kicked it, Richard Palframan was being helped off, and on came Scott Andrews, whose experience was turbulent right away.

The referee seemed to follow him round the park, blowing his whistle. Whether at the tackle or the scrum, Andrews was singled out time and again. Then, on the half-hour, Worcester’s other prop, Ethan Waller, was off; so too Ashley Beck in midfield. The latter had been struggling with an arm injury for some time.

Everyone was struggling in some form or other. Apart from, inevitably, Dan Robson. Wasps’ maestro was pretty much untouchable in Wasps’ remarkable 48-46 defeat last week at Quins, which was everything this match was not. Here, amid the rain, Robson contented himself by turning the visitors with a variety of wicked kicks.

From the territorial pressure, Wasps managed to cross once in the first half, Brad Shields driven over from close range – through the tackle of Andrews – and a pair of penalties by Jacob Umaga earned the home team a 13-3 lead at the break, the least they deserved.

The second half was bathed in sunshine, and it was Worcester who seemed to appreciate it. They opened again with a penalty, but this time maintained their form. Umaga replied, only for the Warriors to cross, Francois Venter picking a fine line off an attacking lineout to put Sam Lewis over. Two further Searle penalties earned Worcester an unlikely lead by the hour.

Then came the red card. There was no faulting the referee’s decision-making, but Ben Morris had every right to be as bemused by his fate as he was. It was contact with the head, so that was that.

Wisely, Wasps pulled off a winger, largely superfluous on such a day, to maintain numbers up front and duly drove through the guts of the Worcester pack for try number two with quarter of an hour to go. Umaga’s conversion secured a four-point lead. It turned out to be all they needed. The bare minimum was always likely to suffice on such a day.