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On this day in 2005: Martin Johnson stung by Wasps on Leicester farewell

By Pa Sport Staff
PA Archive

Martin Johnson’s Leicester farewell fell flat on its face on this day in 2005 as a brilliant Wasps performance saw them surge to their third successive Premiership title.

Wasps ruined the England World Cup-winning captain’s big day out in front of a 66,000 crowd at Twickenham, ensuring his final fling in a Tigers shirt before retirement – and remarkable 500th career start – ended with an emphatic 39-14 defeat.

Leicester never recovered from a scintillating Wasps opening that saw them score 13 unanswered points in eight minutes, with former England stars Joe Worsley, Josh Lewsey and Simon Shaw producing towering displays.

Martin Johnson’s final appearance in a Leicester Tigers shirt before retirement ended in defeat (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)

Wasps skipper Lawrence Dallaglio was not far behind in the work-rate stakes either, as his team underlined their mastery of English rugby’s play-off system to land another championship crown after once again finishing second during the regular 22-game league campaign.

Johnson, arguably the greatest English rugby player of all time, was reduced to a mere mortal on an afternoon when Tigers finished a distant second-best.

Neil Back, Johnson’s erstwhile colleague for club and country, also experienced a miserable send-off, as did Leicester coach John Wells.

Johnson captained England to World Cup glory in 2003 (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)

But Wasps supremo Warren Gatland said goodbye in style before returning home to New Zealand and a coaching job with the Waikato Chiefs.

After such a blistering start, Wasps never looked back, securing the title through 26 points from full-back Mark van Gisbergen, including a try, touchdowns from Tom Voyce and Rob Hoadley, plus an Alex King drop-goal.

Leicester could only manage a Scott Bemand consolation try and three Andy Goode penalties in reply, leaving 35-year-old Johnson and company without silverware.

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Dive Deeper:
England back Anthony Watson joining Leicester Tigers for 2022-23 season
The utility back and British & Irish Lions star will end a nine-year stint with Bath
Wales tipped to summon 'silent assassin who plays like Warburton' for tour to South Africa
The 23-year-old has been in outstanding form for English rugby's leading club
Mark McCall talks up ‘outstanding’ Saracens scrum-half Aled Davies
The ex-Wales international has played a key part in Sarries’ domestic and European title bids.
What will Brendon McCullum bring to the England role?
The New Zealander will lead England’s men’s Test team into their new era.
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Tried and tested for Leinster as Leo Cullen sticks with winning formula for Toulouse semi-final
As revealed in today’s Irish Independent, Leinster remains unchanged for tomorrow’s Champions Cup semi-final against title-holders Toulouse.at the Aviva Stadium.
Owen Farrell vents frustration as Saracens lose to end English involvement in Europe
Toulon 25-16: Toulon power to victory to set up all-French European Challenge Cup final against Lyon
Get all your news in one place