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Rare try for Dan Cole as Leicester beat Wasps to secure top-half Premiership finish

By PA

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Leicester secured their first top-half Premiership finish for three seasons after edging Wasps 38-31 at the Ricoh Arena where spectators enjoyed their first live action for 15 months. Both teams qualified for next season’s Heineken Champions Cup, with Leicester ending the campaign in sixth spot and Wasps in eighth.

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Only one point separated them before the match, but the Tigers have taken a stride forward while Wasps, last season’s beaten finalists, have regressed. Nine of the players involved will report for England duty on Monday but it was someone whose international career appears to be over, Dan Cole, who made a decisive impact in a first half that swung in the summer sunshine.

The former Lions prop had scored two tries in 190 Premiership appearances for Leicester but increased his tally by 50 per cent seven minutes before half-time, forcing his way over the line after Harry Wells and Julian Montoya worked a clever lineout move.

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Leicester enjoyed more of the play on a ground where they had lost on their previous six visits in the Premiership but Wasps compensated for their indiscipline with moments of individual brilliance on an afternoon when neither side needed to win to qualify for Europe.

Wasps took the lead after seven minutes. Wells made a try-saving tackle on Brad Shields, but a series of rucks on the Leicester line ended with No8 Sione Vailanu scoring on an afternoon when all nine tries were converted. Leicester drew level after 19 minutes when Dan Kelly, one of the England newcomers, made a break from a scrum and second row Cameron Henderson scooped an off-load off his feet and stretched out for the line.

The set-piece was the source for the Tigers’ second try which gave them the lead, scored by their other centre Mike Scott after the burly wing Nemani Nadolo had distracted the defence as a decoy. Leicester were at their most vulnerable just after they had scored and within two minutes Wasps were level. Marcus Watson’s kick infield was picked up by Jacob Umaga and the out-half stepped away from Zack Henry before rounding Freddie Steward on a 40-metre run.

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Johnny McPhillips kicked a penalty to restore Leicester’s lead before Cole’s try made it 24-14 to the visitors, only for Wasps to win the restart and set up Vailanu for his second try. Leicester secured their bonus point and Champions Cup berth six minutes after the restart when a Wells charge and Jack van Poortvliet snipe set up hooker Montoya, but back came Wasps through second row Will Rowlands, playing his final match for the club before joining the Dragons.

Henry was sent to the sin-bin for a flip tackle on Watson after 61 minutes, but Wasps continued to concede penalties and Tomas Lavanini sealed victory for the Tigers seven minutes from time before Umaga’s late penalty gave Wasps a second bonus point.

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Rare try for Dan Cole as Leicester beat Wasps to secure top-half Premiership finish

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