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The Paolo Odogwu show is ruined as Clermont ambush Wasps with last-gasp converted try

By PA
(Photo by PA)

French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne floored Wasps with the final play of a pulsating Heineken Champions Cup clash to win 27-25 at the Ricoh Arena. Clermont captain Camille Lopez converted full-back Kotaro Matsushima’s try with the game’s last kick and Wasps’ hopes of reaching the quarter-finals dashed in dramatic fashion.

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Up until that crushing moment for Wasps, it had been the Paolo Odogwu show. He delivered an emphatic reminder of his ability to watching England boss Eddie Jones, scoring a try after just five minutes and narrowly missing out on a second one just before half-time.

On his first start since January 8 after being selected for England’s Guinness Six Nations squad, but not playing a minute of the campaign, Odogwu was outstanding. Odogwu’s fellow wing Josh Bassett also touched down, as did prop Ben Harris, while fly-half Jacob Umaga kicked two penalties and two conversions.

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Scrum-half Sebastien Bezy and prop Peni Ravai scored Clermont’s tries before Matsushima struck, with Lopez booting ten points and Tim Nanai-Williams converting Bezy’s touch down. 

Wasps were so close to marching on, but they ultimately suffered just a second European Cup home defeat against French opposition since 2001. Wasps showed three changes from the side beaten by Sale Sharks last weekend, with Odogwu returning, Umaga making his European Cup debut and James Gaskell lining up at blindside flanker.

Clermont, meanwhile, fielded ten of the starting line-up that beat Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol 51-38 in December, including France international wing Damian Penaud and Japanese World Cup star Matsushima. The visitors, bidding for their eleventh European Cup quarter-final appearance, were rocked by a superb Wasps start as Odogwu pounced.

Centre Michael Le Bourgeois broke through Clermont’s defence and delivered a scoring pass to Odogwu, who crossed unopposed between the posts, and Umaga converted. Wasps should have extended their lead just four minutes later following mesmeric work by full-back Matteo Minozzi, who surged clear, kicked over Clermont defenders, gathered a kind bounce and looked certain to score, but he spilt the ball under pressure from Matsushima as he attempted to touch it down.

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It was a huge let-off for Clermont and they responded by punishing Wasps when Penaud launched a brilliant counter-attack from inside his own half, and Bezy finished off a sweeping move, with replacement Nanai-Williams converting. Clermont then went ahead after centre George Moala beat two defenders, and Ravai showed an impressive turn of speed to score despite Odogwu’s best defensive efforts.

Lopez, back in the action after Nanai-Williams briefly replaced him, converted and Wasps trailed 14-7 after a fast and furious opening quarter. There was no let-up in the skill level as Wasps drew level with another superbly worked score. Lock Will Rowlands secured quality lineout ball, hooker Tommy Taylor – who saw a try disallowed just two minutes earlier – found scrum-half Dan Robson and his inside ball freed Bassett, who finished impressively.

Umaga’s conversion levelled things up and then he kicked two penalties in quick succession, giving Wasps a deserved half-time lead after Odogwu went agonisingly close to a second try but his foot was inches in touch.

Clermont dominated the early stages of the second period, cajoled by substitute and former France scrum-half Morgan Parra, and a Lopez penalty made it 20-17. But back came Wasps with Harris crashing over for a 55th-minute try following sustained forward pressure, before Clermont centre Moala saw a try ruled out after Matsushima’s forward pass during build-up play.

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Another Lopez penalty cut the deficit to five points, yet Wasps remained masters of their own destiny entering the final ten minutes, but Kibirige’s yellow card in the dying seconds saw them hanging on before Matsushima and Lopez broke their hearts.

 

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Jon 9 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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