It has been one hell of a season. So many great memories, so many great performances, so many great tries. I have bound to have missed some out, but some of my highlights are detailed below. Let me know if you agree.
Prior to lockdown, only one real contender, Saracens at home. Fresh from a miserable performance against Leicester and still reeling from the sudden departure of Dai Young, Wasps just went try crazy. Running it from everywhere, playing without inhibition, those in the stadium that Friday evening were left rubbing their eyes with what was playing out in front of them. 60-10 didn’t flatter Wasps at all, it could have been more. Incredible.
Post lockdown, so many to choose from. Northampton away, Saracens away, Bath away. For different reasons all very special. For me, I’m going for the home semi-final, where a highly fancied Bristol were put away comfortably. Wasps emptied their bench at the end and bought key players off ready for the final which changed the score line a little, but that was as close to an eighty minute performance as you are going to get.
Really struggling with this one as they were so many to choose from! Jacob Umaga has scored some belters, either finishing off some great team moves (e.g. Gloucester and Leicester at home) or showing off his own running abilities (Saracens at home, London Irish away, Exeter in the final). I’m going to go for Zach Kibirige’s effort against Sale away though. The finish alone was spectacular but the build up was also a little bit special.
A little easier. Jack Willis has been consistently brilliant throughout and has added scoring important tries frequently to his many abilities. I love watching him play because of his unique skillset, and I will officially retire from watching international rugby if he is not called up to the England squad this week. Special mentions also to Dan Robson and Jimmy Gopperth for the key role they have played in the Wasps revival.
Best young player:
You could probably give this to Jack Willis again but in the interests of variety it has to be Jacob Umaga. I might be wrong but I don’t think he played a single minute of Premiership rugby last year, yet this season he has made that number ten jersey his own. He has had some off days, like most young players, but I admire how he bounces back and puts it right next time out, with the performances from Leicester to Saracens the best example. His kicking to touch from penalties is a huge weapon for Wasps, and last night he showed that he can step up on the biggest of occasions.
A shootout between Zach Kibirige and Malakai Fekitoa, but for me it has got to be the latter. He has added a real steel to Wasps midfield defence and has weighed in with some important tries. Fingers crossed that he is back out on the park relatively soon as he is a real game changer. Terrifying defensively, I very much enjoy watching the opposition running down his channel.
Will Rowlands. What a player. Physical, carries strongly, smashes people back in the tackle, scrummages well. I really hope the rumours of him relocating to Wales are untrue because I think Wasps always play better with him in the team. Established now as first pick alongside Joe Launchbury, he rarely gets the recognition his consistent form deserves.
Looking forward to seeing more of:
Three players in particular. Ben Vellacott looks a really exciting player, and if as expected Dan Robson gets called up for England, could well be starting a lot for Wasps next season. He suffered a really bad injury at the start of the season but now looks set to start off the next one fully firing. Due to injuries in the centre, also expect to see a lot of Sam Spink. Another excellent academy graduate, he bagged his first premiership try against Leicester, and looks a dangerous runner in open play. Finally, Lima Sopoaga, who can never seem to get a run going. I thought he was outstanding last night at 15 when he came on and I can imagine him featuring there frequently next term. If it is to be his final season in England, it would be great for him to remind everyone of why he has played so many time for the All Blacks.
Though last night ended in disappointment, it is difficult not to be incredibly optimistic about the next term. Wasps have got some frighteningly good players coming through; Charlie Atkinson, Tim Cardall, Alfie Barbeary, Kieran Curran, Will Simmonds to name just a few. Eight players have been called up for England U18s this week. With a young and ambitious coaching set up, the future is looking very bright indeed. It’s a great time to be a Wasps supporter.