Wasps are in the final then – Covid permitting! What a performance that last Saturday. Comprehensive, calculated and thoroughly deserved. Unlike the sometimes unbearable tension of the 2017 semi-final, this was as comfortable as it gets.
I have watched back key aspects of the game a couple of times, and regardless of what happens, or doesn’t happen this Saturday, I felt there was something very apt about the Wasps players who registered points last weekend. They have made their mark more than most in this surreal season.
A few words on each of them below.
Try #1 Malakai Fekitoa.
Elliot Daly didn’t have his best season last year but is easy to let that cloud what was an excellent Wasps career. His departure left a big gap in the Wasps midfield. After a slightly slow start, it seems fair to say that Fekiota has more than filled that gap. Clearly a different player to Daly, he offers ferocious physicality in the 13 channel, and since the restart has set the tone for Wasps in a number of excellent defensive displays. Like Kurtley Beale in 2017, he hobbled off injured having opened the scoring, and I fear he will be a big miss in the final if he does not recover in time. Unlike Kurtley Beale’s semi-final swansong, we can look forward to seeing him back in Wasps colours after an excellent first season.
Try#2 Jack Willis
However, I suspect we won’t see much of Jack Willis in Wasps colours next season – he will be wearing the red rose of England a lot. Well at least he should be, but given Eddie Jones’s enthusiasm for ignoring form and playing players out of position, maybe we will… Before his injury his turnover abilities were well known to anyone who followed club rugby, this season his ball carrying and try scoring has been absolutely instrumental to the turnaround Wasps have enjoyed. Many of the players have enjoyed a resurgence since the lockdown, but Willis has simply been outstanding throughout. Special player who does special things. Wasps are lucky to have him, and the national team is just about to realise how lucky they are too.
Try#3 Dan Robson
It is easy to forget the problems Dan Robson endured around last year’s Six Nations, which were really quite serious and must have been incredibly unsettling. It undoubtedly cost him any chance of featuring in the World Cup, and I think it is fair to say that his form at the start of the season was a little mixed, potentially as a result of this. I got the impression he was trying to do too much in a struggling team, with the extra responsibility of often being captain. Since Lee Blackett took over, his form has been wonderful, kicking well, scoring tries, and being a constant threat for the opposition. Massively underutilised by England, another who could well be playing with a red rose on his chest rather than a Wasp next season.
Try#4 Zach Kibirige
That 14 shirt has taken some filling since Christian Wade surprised us all by switching sports. Since the opening day of the season, Kibirige has been a model of consistency. Scoring tries for fun and weighing in with his fair share of assists, he has been a pleasure to watch. Deceptively powerful, obviously quick, he has made that right wing his own and has proven to be a shrewd purchase by Wasps. Undoubtedly first choice winger at the club in a position where there is increasing depth, he has filled that 14 shirt with distinction.
Try#5 Matteo Minozzi
Since Wasps relocated to the Ricoh, we have been a little spoilt, enjoying full backs from the three tri-nations giants trotting out with some regularity. Charles Piutau, Kurtley Beale, Willie Le Roux. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. We now have the best full back from Italy. Slowly but surely Minozzi has nailed down his place at the back of the field, weighing in with assists, try saving tackles, and some important tries. His sprint to the line to finish off the scoring was another reminder of his abilities. Prior to Wasps he suffered a really bad injury – we are now getting to see more and more of his skills that made him a rare Italian pick in a six nations team of the year very recently.
22 Points, Jimmy Gopperth.
When Gopperth got injured at the start of last season, we all feared the worst. He is such an influential player, and an absolute model of consistency off the kicking tee. As I tell my children, age is just a number, and his enthusiasm and passion for the game defies the numbers on his birth certificate. What is clearly obvious is that he is a remarkable player and one who is valued by all who follow Wasps closely. If Wasps have a kick to win it at the weekend, Exeter have experienced already what is likely to be the outcome.
Five try scorers, one brilliant kicker, forty-seven points scored. In the semi-final, against a very good Bristol team. What a performance, what a squad we now have. Let’s hope we get to enjoy them one more time this season at the weekend.