The 18 – 19 season is now officially at an end. Phew! The troubles Wasps have endured have been well documented and anyone who half follows the club will be able to list a host of reasons behind the fall from 3rd place to 8th in the space of twelve months.
Here is my take on some of the highs and lows of their toughest season since the Ricoh relocation.
Best individual try:
Not much competition here I think, it is hard to look past the Marcus Watson try against Leicester Tigers away earlier in the year. That score was pleasing for two reasons; one it was the type of score Wasps fans had been waiting for since the club signed him, and secondly it secured him a contract for next season and beyond. Hopefully there will be many more to come. Ross Neal / Will Rowlands both went over in different games versus Bristol, and were perhaps the only other contenders for slightly different reasons.
Best team try:
On a different day, with a different refereeing team, there would be only one contender, and that would have been Josh Bassett finishing off a near length of a field effort in the final away game of the season against Bath. More on officials later. With that ruled out, my personal favourite was Ashley Johnson finishing off a great team move against the same team in the Champions Cup. That completed ten minutes of stunning rugby, where Wasps had roared back from a woeful first half showing, scored three tries in ten minutes, with Johnson’s being the bonus point score. The game ended in a frustrating draw, but that try will live long in the memory.
Exeter away. Two tries down, to win with a try scoring bonus point was as unexpected as it was welcomed! At home, I personally enjoyed the home league win against Bristol. One look at the Wasps twenty three that day will tell you the club was literally down to its bare bones. Ross Neal scored two tries that match, both of which were of high quality, and in my opinion Lima Sopoaga had his best game to date.
A few contenders here sadly. Northampton away was particularly poor, as was Gloucester at home, both in the league. My vote goes to the Christmas Cracker though, which was against that team again, Bath. The contrast between the previous seasonal game (Gloucester) and this was huge, and symbolic of how much Wasps were struggling. No attacking verve, players low on confidence, and Bath really did not have to do too much to win. Not pleasant viewing.
Player of the Season:
Thomas Young and Will Rowlands received the official awards for this, and I feel it is hard to look past these two, in terms of consistency and impact. I also feel both Kieran Brookes and Zura Zhvania has good first seasons in Wasps colours, Juan de Jongh performed really well, with a brace of tries against Leicester Tigers a particular highlight, and Ben Harris helped soften the blow of Matt Mullan’s absence and subsequent departure this year.
Sad to See Go:
Willie le Roux, Elliot Daly, Nathan Hughes and Joe Simpson have all provided ‘off your seats’ moments and I feel privileged to have seen them play for the club I love. Their highlights for me were Le Roux’s four assists vs Northampton last season, the Daly wonder try against Leinster in Europe, Hughes brace in the same season against Toulon and Simpson’s fantastic try against Exeter in the league, early into the Ricoh years. I will happily admit to feeling a bit emotional when Joe scored his first try yesterday, and to see the joy it bought to not only himself, but the squad who celebrated around him, was truly wonderful.
You have got to be kidding moment:
Christian Wade retiring from rugby, a few games into the seasons, to pursue a career in the NFL. I am still in shock now.
Firstly, game management. The amount of games Wasps have lost or almost lost in the last ten minutes this term is bordering on farcical. It is becoming a habit which is absolutely hampering progression in every sense. Secondly, the standard and complete lack of consistency of the officiating. Incredibly challenging job, but some of the TMO interventions this season for example have been laughable. I think it is fair to say this is a wider problem, with the England Autumn internationals offering two very high profile calls which were further demonstrations of such issues.
Hopes for next season:
The coaching situation gets sorted, the issue with SISU and more importantly Coventry City football club gets resolved, and we get to see more of the Willis brothers, Tommy Taylor, Jimmy Gopperth and Joe Launchbury on the pitch. Plus the academy lads get more of a run, which I think they might based on the European Rugby qualification situation, and the current ‘transfer situation’. As you can see by the summary below, there are still some big gaps which require filling…
Willie le Roux – Matteo Minozzi
Elliot Daly – Malakai Fekitoa
Nathan Hughes – Sione Vailanu
Joe Simpson – Ben Vellacott
Jake Cooper-Woolley – Jeff Toomaga-Allen
Will Stuart – Jack Owlett
Matt Mullan – Mike Daniels / Biyi Alo
Christian Wade – TBC?
Kearnan Myall – TBC?
Gaby Lovobalavu – TBC?
Thanks for reading and for all of the feedback during the season. Be interested to hear your highlights, both good and bad!!