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

Leicester Tigers’ Martin Johnson walks from the pitch in dejection after their defeat (David Davies/PA)
Leicester Tigers’ Martin Johnson walks from the pitch in dejection after their defeat (David Davies/PA)

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

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

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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