‘Losing Dai was a surprise’ – Wasps’ interim head coach

Wasps’ interim boss Lee Blackett insisted the shock departure of Dai Young in midweek after nine years in charge did not influence their performance against Leicester Tigers.

In his first game at the helm since long-serving director of rugby Young stepped back from first-team duties on Tuesday, Blackett saw his side take a 9-3 lead through three Jimmy Gopperth penalties.

However, Greg Bateman’s 55th-minute try and a penalty and conversion from Noel Reid put the Tigers 13-9 in front – Tom Hardwick having slotted over a first-half three-pointer for the hosts – before two crucial moments turned the game Leicester’s way.

First, Wasps wing Zach Kibirige looked a certain scorer before having the ball knocked from his grasp by Ben White, and then immediately afterwards Tigers full-back Telusa Veainu capitalised on a Wasps handling error to run 90 metres for the match-winning try.

Despite the loss, Blackett was adamant that the team’s focus was on the task in hand.

“Losing Dai on Tuesday was a surprise to all of us but it didn’t affect our performance today and we won’t be using his departure as an excuse,” he said.

“It didn’t affect our preparation and I thought we were in a good place and so it proved for the first 30 minutes of the game.”

Dai Young's qualities as a coach took Wasps from the brink of relegation and financial oblivion to regular playoff contenders.

Whatever's gone wrong with the club in the last two years, I'm not sure he's the man who should be carrying the can for it…

— Josh Gardner (@joshgardner) February 11, 2020

On Kibirige’s error in the act of scoring, Blackett added: “Zach scores that try 99 times out of a hundred and then when we throw a poor pass, they go the length to score.

“Games in these conditions are won and lost by small margins and they won the little moments today.

“The first 20 minutes was good for us as we played the game in the right areas. We pinned them deep in their territory but we over-kicked at times.

“In the second half, their pack got a foothold in the match and after that they drove us to death and we didn’t have enough to match them.”

Leicester’s head coach Geordan Murphy accepted White’s tackle was a crucial factor in Tigers winning the game.

He said: “It was a huge moment and it just shows what can happen if you don’t give up as the winger should score that every time but Ben’s effort was remarkable.

“In the first half, we gave Wasps too many opportunities and we didn’t start the second half very well, conceding another score and then going down to 14.

“We showed great effort to immediately get back into their territory and from then on, we were more accurate and got our rolling maul going to good effect.”