The sun was shining as old rivalries were renewed when Wasps Legends took the field at Allianz Park to play Saracens Scimitars. It was family day for the Legends and a whole host of future Wasps were on hand to cheer on their fathers. The game saw scintillating passages of
play, bruising hits and end to end rugby as well as the odd familiar face or two.
A 36-man squad arrived at Allianz Park and immediately got into the spirit of things, spending most of the warm up having photos taken with friends and family and chatting with the opposition in the form of Hugh Vyvyan, Thomas Castaignede and Dan Harris. Eventually a rugby ball was seen being thrown around as players refamiliarised themselves with the laws of the game.
Wasps Legends started strongly. The pack weren’t fazed by the new scrum laws and took their opposition on with the skill and drive that they were renowned for in years gone by. Quick ball through the backs led to a try on his debut from winger John Abadom, showing that age doesn’t necessarily slow you down. Fullback Matt Leek stepped up to take the conversion to take an early lead (0 – 7).
Saracens hit back and capitalised on some poor attacking handling as Nabs Suma gifted Sarries with the ball rather than scoring the try. Sarries scored two tries in quick succession from Rod Penny and Paul Reid (10 – 7). Luckily for the Wasps Legends, Sarries seemed to have left their kicking boots at home. By this point in the game, most of the starting line up, feeling a bit hot, bothered, red-faced and out of breath took the Sarries tries as the ideal opportunity to sub themselves and take a much needed break. The game was proving to be too fast and furious for most of the starting 15.
Another debut Legend, Joe Beardshaw, continued to dominate with the rest of the pack in the set piece, and took a short pop to cross the line to put Wasps Legends back in front. Andy Gomarsall, keen to get involved offered to take the conversion and slotted over the kick to take back the lead (10 – 14).
It was Saracens who ended the half in front with a try out wide on the left wing to make it 15 – 14 to the home side. Luckily for the left field defenders there seemed to be a crowd of black and gold shirts so it was difficult to see who was responsible for the missed tackles.
The second half saw both teams swapping tries and seemed keen to impress their younger professional counterparts who took a few minutes to watch the players of yesteryear strut their stuff.
It was the forwards, with the likes of White and Cronin, that built the platform and were mighty in the tight and with some quick ball from the base of the ruck and some great linking from Waters and Denny in the centres, gave John Abadom the space to beat two defenders and run in his second try of the afternoon. Matt Leek deciding to take back the kicking duties from Gomarsall, and slotted over the conversion to retake the lead 15 – 21.
The Wasps defence was yet again found wanting when miscommunication between the backs (and probably forwards) led to John Buckton scoring for Sarries to keep the hosts in touch (20 – 21). Luckily, Sarries continued to miss their conversions. Entering the last ten minutes of the game, nervous tension was mounting on the side line. Could this be the first loss for the Legends? Captain Fraser Waters wasn’t having any of it and took the camel by the hump and went back on to put his body on the line to ensure that Wasps Legends left the pitch with a win. He immediately made an impact (or so he said) and with some impressive handling skills, which shocked even those involved, Rob Laird broke through the Sarries defensive line to score a crucial try and put Wasps Legends ahead (20 – 26). Unfortunately, Gomarsall missed the conversion and found himself back o the bench.
However, every time Wasps took the lead and relaxed, Saracens fought back straight away. Taking advantage of some tired bodies lying on the floor they took back the lead with John Buckton scoring his second of the day (27 – 26). It probably didn’t help that, while teammates were putting their bodies on the line, others were finding it hard to focus on the game itself and instead were busy with their media schedules
and explaining how fun it was to be back on the park, although the game was a tad bit too fast for him.
With the end in sight and the forwards digging deep to keep the momentum going for the backs, and some turnover ball masterly won by Paul Volley, Lewis Gunn got ball in hand, pulled out a great side step and ran in under the posts. Gomarsall, back on the pitch by this point, took the conversion to make it 27 – 33.
It was Saracens who had the last word. Wasps Legends clearly felt it a was time for the final whistle and had their minds on the first beer of the afternoon as Rod Penny powered over the Wasps defence to score his
second of the day. 32 – 33 – could Sarries really snatch the win away from the men in black and gold? Wasps Legends, both those on the pitch and on the side line, held their breath anticipating the worst. The conversion went wide, a sign of relief went round the legends camp as the final whistle blew and Wasps Legends winning by 1 point (32 – 33) in what was a classic game of rugby from some true legends of the game.
Immediately after the game, Trustees of Wasps Legends Charitable Foundation, Paul Clements and Peter Scrivener presented Starlight Children’s Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Neil Swan, with a cheque for £30,000.
Wasps Legends Chairman, Paul Clements, said: “it’s great that Starlight could attend the game today so we could make an official presentation,
through our tours and family fun days we’ve found a more formal way for our past players to stay involved and support good causes at the same
time. The money we raised for Starlight is being put towards 3 Starlight Fund Centres, which are mobile entertainment units, at Milton Keynes Hospital and 4 at Stoke Mandeville as well as helping the charity
to grant the dearest wishes of two very poorly children to go to Disneyland and Florida”. Trustee, Peter Scrivener, added: “to play here in a Stadium like Allianz Park, with old friends and players is a special occasion, especially as it’s all for charity. It makes it extra special that we managed to get the victory over our old rivals Saracens Scimitars.”
Debutant Phil Greening felt “it was a great honour to be back playing today and be back with the boys again. Wasps was such an important part of my life and it’s like it’s only been a few hours away from the boys rather than a few years. I can’t wait for the next game”.
Congratulations to the following players who wore the Wasps Legends shirt for the first time: James Wellwood, Andy Orugboh, Des Collier, Joe Beardshaw, Paul Gaster, John Abadom, Phil Greening and Mark Lock
Squad: Darren Molloy, Des Collier, Garry Holmes, Joe Beardshaw, Damian Cronin, Paul Volley,Jonny Barrett, Mark Lock, Andy Gomarsall, Lewis Gunn, Paul Gastor, Mark Denny, Fraser Waters,John Abadom, Matt Leek, Dave Law, Andy Kershaw, Buster White, Phil Greening, Andy Orugboh,
Updated 10:19 - 8 Oct 2013 by Waheed Aslam
Jason Turner, Richard Parker, Michael Harris, Ken Moss, Mike Friday, Jonny Ufton, Andy Ireland,James Wellwood , David Straddling, Lawrence Scrase, Rob Lowoski, Mark Rogers, Mickey Skinner,Jason Kidd, Nabs Suma, Rob Laird.