Defending Heineken Cup champions London Wasps were knocked out of the tournament at Parc des Sports Aguilera by a Biarritz side who could have what it takes to capture their crown.

Wasps went into the match knowing they needed a win to have any chance of topping Pool 1, but slipped to a three-point loss, despite holding the powerful Biarritz Olympique side to 8-all at halftime.

The Biarritz backrow of Imanol Harinordoquy, Thomas Lievrement and Serge Betsen were superb as their side followed up last weekend’s stunning win over Leicester with a hard-fought victory over the champions.

The home side opened the scoring with a beautifully-struck dropped goal from makeshift fly-half Damien Traille, but Wasps hit back when powerful centre Ayoola Erinle brushed aside centre Thibault Lacroix to crash over the try-line.

Biarritz regathered quickly and produced one of those driving lineouts that proved to be Leicester’s downfall at Welford Road last weekend. Wasps had no answer as the French pack marched over the try-line, with Harinordoquy emerging from the pile with the ball.

Wasps were hit by a knee injury to centre Stuart Abbott midway through the opening half, which will have further repercussions next month. With Will Greenwood, Jonny Wilkinson and Mike Tindall already sidelined, England coach Andy Robinson is quickly running out of world-class centres.

Wasps fullback Mark Van Gisbergen broke clear to give what he thought was a try-scoring pass to scrum-half Matt Dawson, but a superb covering tackle from Traille meant the decision went to video ref Brian Stirling, who ruled that the England No 9 had been held up.

Wasps received a penalty from the scrum, but Alex King was left reeling when his kick for touch was cut out by the foot of Dimitri Yachvili and Biarritz were able to clear.

Van Gisbergen slotted a penalty goal from close range, and the sides went into the break locked at 8-all.

A clever pass from Betsen gave winger Jimy Marlu the chance to score in the opening exchanges of the second half, and Wasps’ grip on the Heineken Cup was slipping away.

Harinordoquy did nothing to help his side’s cause with a yellow card after trading several ineffective punches with Lawrence Dallaglio, although replacement Wasps prop Tim Payne was lucky to avoid a similar punishment for a raking boot to the head of Lievremont.

Yachvili extended his side’s lead to 18-8 with a penalty goal and Wasps went into the final quarter needing three tries to secure the bonus point that would keep them in the tournament.

Payne appeared in the midfield to score the first of them, but they ran out of time to score the third try that would have handed a quarter-final spot to arch-rivals Leicester.