'Tony Spreadbury was in with me last week... we're losing games by a point and every penalty counts'
Wasps boss Lee Blackett is hoping they can shake off their reputation as this season’s most indisciplined Gallagher Premiership team and catch a Heineken Champions Cup break when they are refereed by a non-English official – Ireland’s Frank Murphy – when they host Clermont on Saturday in the round of 16.
Blackett’s side come into the Ricoh Arena tie having conceded 190 penalties in this season’s Premiership, seven more than next-worst Sale and 28 more than league leagues Bristol. Worcester, the most disciplined side, have conceded only 126 penalties.
The malaise saw Wasps take remedial action last month by having referee Christophe Ridley in to take charge of their training ground matches, but they slipped back into back habits in last weekend’s loss to Sale, conceding 14 penalties and losing for the seventh time in their last nine league matches.
It was also the fourth match in succession they lost at the Ricoh by six points or less, the margin of defeat being just a single point in their last two home games. It has left Blackett feeling on edge and still asking for guidance from the RFU on where his Wasps have been going wrong ahead of their Champions Cup tie. “You have got to be aware of what is going on out there,” he said.
“Tony Spreadbury (the RFU referees boss) was in with me last week. Those conversations are happening all the time weekly and I have conversations with the referee that is refereeing the next game and also speaking to the referee we have just had previously. It’s massive at the moment. We are losing games by a point, the last couple of home games by a point. There are such tight margins and every penalty counts and all we are trying to do is make ourselves squeaky clean in terms of that area.”
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Asked whether any patterns had emerged about specific areas of repeat offending, Blackett added: “We worked really hard defensively and we started in the last couple of weeks move away from giving defensive penalties away and then we had a bad one again at the weekend, so it’s that constant reminder that it’s every single week and we can’t just put an emphasis on one area to fix ourselves up.
“It was a big penalty count. Sale had 16 so they were worse than us but we were not happy with 14. If you came and asked me a year ago it was always single figures and it was brilliant – 14 is a few too many but the game at the moment with the penalty issues there seems to be a higher penalty count consistently.”
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