Frank Halai shines with brace as Wasps sting London Irish to continue fine run
Wasps maintained their scintillating recent form with a 33-15 victory over London Irish in the second clash of the Twickenham double header in London.
Dai Young's side have blazed a trail in the Europe in recent weeks with big wins over tournament heavyweights Leinster and Toulon and that trend continued against the Exiles.
Tries from Frank Halai (two), Elliot Daly and Thomas Young did the damage, while fly-half Ruaridh Jackson and replacement No 10 Jimmy Gopperth added 13 points between them.
Young Exiles centre Johnny Williams bagged a brace of tries in an impressive individual display.
Relentless early pressure from Wasps earned Jackson his first shot at the posts with the Scottish fly-half firing his side into an early 3-0 lead.
A dangerous clear out at the ruck by Wasps prop Matt Mullan allowed Exiles No 10 Chris Noakes to level the scores from the tee four minutes later.
Arguably the form side in Europe in recent weeks, Wasps looked hugely threatening in possession with powerful No 8 Nathan Hughes often coming to the fore.
Irish were absorbing phase after phase of pressure and it was only a matter of time before an Exiles player infringed at the breakdown. Eoin Sheriff was the guilty party on this occasion as the former Saracens lock failed to roll away at the breakdown. Jackson made amends for an earlier miss to push Wasps out to a 6-3 lead.
A powerful scrum, spearheaded by new arrival Ben Franks, forced a penalty, but Noakes sent the resulting kick wide of the posts.
Having held out Wasps for the majority of a tight first-half, the Exiles' rearguard was breached three minutes before the interval. Powerful carries from Charles Piutau, James Haskell and Jake Cooper-Woolley put Wasps on the front foot before the excellent Joe Simpson fed flying winger Halai who crashed over in the corner.
There was still time for more drama as young centre Williams showed great strength to cross the whitewash following a great attacking spell from the Exiles. Jackson and Noakes both failed with their touchline conversion attempts to leave the score at 11-8 heading into the half-time break.
Jackson sent a very kickable penalty effort wide of the posts just after the break as his place-kicking issues continued. Noakes was having similar problems as the former Auckland Blues fly-half shanked another three-pointer soon after.
New England head coach Eddie Jones would have been thrilled by Daly's next contribution. The Wasps centre ran a beautiful line off fellow midfielder Ben Jacobs to scorch over from 20 metres out. Jackon added the extras to give his side some much-needed breathing space.
Gopperth, who replaced Jackson in the 50th minute, further increased Wasps' lead with his first successful penalty of the evening.
Just when it looked like London Irish were finished, that man Williams was on hand to touch down once more. The Exiles youngster showed great pace to beat the Wasps cover and pounce on Topsy Ojo's deft grubber kick. Noakes fired over the conversion to cut Wasps' lead to six points.
Wasps flanker Young touched down to put the result beyond doubt after a surging Wasps maul, with Gopperth adding the conversion. The Exiles resolve was well and truly broken after that as Halai cruised over for his second try following a scything midfield break from Daly.