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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
How Wasps tamed the Tigers

By Bryn Palmer
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Wasps celebrate winning the Heineken Cup against Leicester
Wasps won their second Heineken Cup following victory in 2004
Size isn't everything. Power is not the be-all and end-all.

The 2007 Heineken Cup final, a victory for England's best small club over its best big club, was a timely reminder that brains and bravery can still overcome brawn, even amid the crash-bang nature of modern rugby.

Wasps not only met the awesome physical challenge posed by Leicester, they attacked the Tigers' strengths and won the tactical contest hands down.

All the talk pre-match was of the Tigers' powerhouse Pacific Islanders Alesana Tuilagi and Seru Rabeni, so instrumental in the destruction of Gloucester in the Premiership final last weekend.

But they got little change out of Wasps' magnificent "rush" defence, which stood up to be counted, and then got up for more, time and again.

Wing Tom Voyce forced an early turnover from Tuilagi, which proved the precursor to a highly frustrating afternoon for the 18-stone Samoan.

"I can't tell you how much of an emotional lift that gave the boys early doors," said Wasps assistant coach Shaun Edwards, the brains behind another defensive masterclass to match the 2004 final win over Toulouse.

Wasps wing Paul Sackey tackles Leicester's Alesana Tuilagi
Wasps wing Sackey was determined to stop Leicester's Alesana Tuilagi

Paul Sackey was bravery personified in his personal duel with Tuilagi, never giving his formidable opponent room in which to utilise his power.

When an Andy Goode cross-kick in the 11th minute found the marauding Samoan, the England wing was quickly up on him, forcing a knock-on.

It wasn't until the 33rd minute that Tuilagi, from a long pass by lock Ben Kay, found any space to run.

But again Sackey was equal to the task, bringing Tuilagi down head-on as Joe Worsley and Raphael Ibanez completed the three-man demolition job, forcing Tuilagi to concede a penalty for holding on.

Tuilagi is huge but I learnt at school that if you take them round the ankles, it is fool-proof

Man-of-the-match Fraser Waters

It proved a pivotal moment. King punted the penalty to touch, and Ibanez and Simon Shaw caught Leicester napping again for Wasps' second try from the line-out.

Tuilagi's frustration was evident seven minutes into the second half when he slammed the ball into the turf after being caught offside attempting an interception.

A stern talking-to from referee Alan Lewis ensued, and by the end last week's two-try hero was a forlorn figure.

Inside Sackey and Voyce, centres Fraser Waters and Josh Lewsey and fly-half Alex King were equally belligerent, squeezing the life out of Leicester.

"I made a few tackles out there," said man-of-the-match Waters with considerable understatement.

Wasps scrum-half Eoin Reddan
Scrum-half Eoin Reddan struck from a line-out for Wasps' first try

"If you give these big guys a run-up you are in trouble. Tuilagi is huge but I learnt at school that if you take them round the ankles, it is fool-proof."

Having successfully neutered Leicester's power, Wasps delivered two knock-out blows in the first half with tries direct from line-outs.

The inspiration for them came from assistant coach Leon Holden, who "spotted a few gaps in Leicester's formations" during Wasps' league defeat to the Tigers on the final day of the regular season.

"I didn't actually want them called until late in the first half or early in the second," the New Zealander explained. "I was surprised they called them so early but credit to the boys for spotting the opportunity when they did."

If Wasps targeted one of Leicester's traditional strengths, the line-out, they also matched them at scrum-time, where Tom French, a 23-year-old prop, was starting only his second senior game.

'Frenchie' [Tom French] did 'Vicks' [Phil Vickery] a couple of times in practice

Craig Dowd
Wasps forwards coach

Going head-to-head with Julian White, regarded as the most destructive scrummager in Europe, French rose to the challenge magnificently.

Director of rugby Ian McGeechan revealed he let Phil Vickery and Ibanez decide who would partner them in the front row after a final training session.

"'Frenchie' did 'Vicks' a couple of times in practice and he told us 'this kid is not too bad'," explained Wasps' scrummaging coach, the former All Black Craig Dowd.

"'Frenchie' was fantastic, probably my man-of-the-match," added flanker Joe Worsley, who delivered another bravura defensive effort to rank with his 2004 vintage.

Leicester lock Louis Deacon
Wasps denied Leicester an unprecedented Treble

"None of us had ever really played with him before but he got his technique right and dealt with Julian White superbly."

With captain Lawrence Dallaglio, Ibanez, Vickery, Shaw, King and Waters all off the field by the end, Wasps' old guard left the young guns to deliver the last rites, a sixth consecutive final victory at Twickenham in the bag.

As they celebrated raucously on receipt of the trophy, the public address system belted out Razorlight's "Fall to Pieces".

It was an appropriate epitaph for Leicester's Treble hopes, cut down to size by those swarming Wasps.

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