Following yesterday’s sobering defeat by Saracens, the 2017-2018 season has now officially finished from a Wasps perspective. Over the coming weeks, people far more qualified than me will release reviews, analysing both the positive and negative aspects of what has certainly been an eventful year.
Here is my brief attempt. If I could choose three words to describe this term, it would be these. Never in control. I was scrolling through the results earlier to check, and I can only pinpoint one game in the Premiership when I felt confident during the majority of the match that the five points were inevitable, and that was Newcastle at home. Wasps scored big against Sale and Gloucester at the Ricoh, but there were various points in both those matches when the opposition were threatening to cause an upset. Against Worcester recently for example, you knew the game was won at half time, but Wasps had to rely on an interception try to grab the bonus point, fairly deep into the second half. The European games have been interesting to say the least, with the thoughts of the Harlequins game a painful reminder of how Wasps can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, which they demonstrated again a few weeks later when playing Sale away in the league.
It has felt out of control in other ways. Injuries this season have hit the club hard, with player after player picking up injury after injury. The fact the club finished third is a significant achievement when you tot up how many players have been unavailable for extended spells this season. Recruitment for next year also adds to this theme, with Wasps taking the unusual step of advising of a new player announcement on Tuesday, to then cancel this hours before the big reveal until later in the month. I am sure it is all in hand, but it added to the slightly chaotic trend. Even on Saturday, an hour before the biggest game of the season, supporters were going apoplectic on social media about an outgoing former club captain choosing to spend his time elsewhere, which was more than a little surreal yet strangely symbolic of what has been a bit of a bizarre season.
Looking forward to 2018-2019, as much as I love the excitement Wasps bring, it would be good for the heart rate to have some slightly more relaxing viewing next term. I am not sure it is going to happen though. Saracens and Exeter are in the final because they know how to see teams off, and know how to see out games. Wasps are not there yet, and though they showed yesterday when they get it right they are the best attacking team in the league, they are a fair old distance still from the two at Twickenham next week from a defensive perspective. Saying that, I know which of the three teams most neutrals enjoy watching, I need to be careful what I wish for.
Some other judgements below:
Best player: Willie Le Roux. Simply outstanding, helped by the fact he was one of the few players who seemed to stay fit for almost all of season. A rarity!
Best try: Before yesterday, I would have pumped for Elliot Daly’s effort vs Leicester at home. Beautifully executed, and made to look ridiculously easy. Following yesterday, I think Thomas Young’s score may have topped it for similar reasons.
Best new signing: Juan De Jongh, by some distance, particularly once he moved to outside centre. I am intrigued to see whether Daly on the wing is going to become the norm from this point, with end of season selections suggesting Dai Young is leaning this way.
Favourite games: Two stand out for me. Northampton away in the league, when Wasps ended a fairly horrific run of form with a much needed bonus point victory, with De Jongh crossing late to secure all five points. The other was Harlequins away (obviously in the league!) which saw Wasps run out bonus point winners despite playing with fourteen men for most of the match. Jack Willis really announced himself that day, with his strength over the ball freakish. Let us hope the injury sustained yesterday is an insignificant one and he enjoys a well earned rest over the summer. On that theme my…..
Favourite player: needs a break. I am a huge Joe Launchbury fan, but I personally think he needs this summer off. His influence seemed to reduce a little as the season went on, which is not surprising given he has played an awful lot of top level rugby in the past twelve months. Big game after big game for club and country has to take a toll. He is not going to get it though, so fingers crossed he comes back from South Africa in once piece.
Personal highlight: Taking my five year old son to his first ever Rugby game against Sale, and him blanking Danny Cipriani’s friendly high five before the Sale match, much to my embarrassment! He made amends before the Northampton match thankfully.
Thank you to all of you who have commented on this blog in the past few months, it is really appreciated. Who knows what 2018-2019 will bring?