Wasps stay strong to sting Saints

WASPS WOE - Saints suffered defeat at Adams Park (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

WASPS WOE - Saints suffered defeat at Adams Park (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Three mad second-half minutes contributed to Saints’ downfall as Wasps claimed a shock 20-16 Aviva Premiership win at Adams Park.

Ashley Johnson intercepted a Luther Burrell pass to help the home side move ahead before Tom Varndell’s score almost immediately after took the game away from Northampton.

Wasps were defiant all afternoon, resisting waves of Saints pressure at various points during the game, and only a late Ben Foden try brought any joy for the away side.

It was a sobering afternoon after the emphatic high of nine days earlier, when Jim Mallinder’s men walked through Gloucester at will to earn a 53-6 opening-day success.

But for Wasps it was the end of a sorry streak against Saints, who had claimed 10 consecutive victories against the High-Wycombe based outfit.

Dai Young’s men had started as they meant to go on, showing relentless desire in defence as their pack stood tall in the face of a series of lineout drives.

It was a show of strength that signalled added belief in the home ranks and they soon illustrated they could also defend against Saints’ backs play as the lime tide was stemmed.

Andy Goode had the chance to relieve what was relentless pressure, but the fly-half’s penalty from inside his own half was skewed horribly, going dead.

Saints used the possession to push on, winning a shot at goal with a big scrum, and Myler struck the ball well to put the visitors ahead.

Wasps were refusing to be overawed though, and they soon displayed their power game in the opposition half as a lineout drive forced a penalty, which Goode kicked to restore parity.

The successful tee kick kick extracted a roar from the home faithful, with the atmosphere as highly-charged as the Wasps players.

Saints were suddenly struggling to get out and they were given a reprieve as Goode fired his penalty attempt wide of the left post.

There was a flashpoint soon after as Alex Corbisiero and shaggy-haired flanker Johnson exchanged blows following the breakdown of a lineout and both men were sent to the sin bin.

It was a scrappy moment in a scrappy game and Wasps were clearly up for the fight as they again faced the prospect of a Saints scrum five metres out, and again won a penalty.

Defences were most definitely on top and it was soon the turn of Mallinder’s men to make a statement of defiance, putting in some huge hits to stop a rampaging Wasps side.

James Haskell was a picture of tenacity, while Andy Goode was also rolling back the years with some clever fly-half play.

Goode attempted to put further pressure on Saints with a drop goal at the end of a spell of early second-half pressure, but his effort was greeted by groans as it flew wide.

And Myler was also wayward with the boot soon after, with his penalty pushed across the posts and to safety for Wasps.

But the home side’s reprieve looked to be short-lived as George North touched down from a clever Ken Pisi chip.

However, the TMO, Geoff Warren, deemed North was offside and Saints had to settle for the penalty, Myler this time slotting it with aplomb.

And he was at it again 15 minutes into the second half, making the most of some good work by replacement Kahn Fotuali’i, whose sharp break had helped earn the shot at goal.

Saints were disrupted by an injury to lock Christian Day, who was down for some time before leaving the field.

Wasps used the break in play to regroup and they were soon handed a gift by Burrell, with Johnson intercepting the centre’s pass and sprinting over the tryline.

A well-struck conversion from Northampton-born Ruaridh Jackson put Wasps ahead, and Saints were suddenly all at sea, with things getting worse moments later.

Varndell picked up the ball out wide, chipped the ball ahead and used the kind bounce to score.

Jackson’s conversion from the left touchline was greeted with jubilation, with the home fans recognising how important it could be.

Saints were eight points down with less than 20 minutes to go and try as they might they just could not break down the Wasps rearguard.

Joe Simpson made a huge tackle to stop Samu Manoa powering over from the back of a maul before phase after phase of away pressure came to an end with a turnover.

And Wasps proceeded to rub salt in the wound, winning a penalty after a poor kick from Fotuali’i, with replacement full-back Rob Miller taking his team 11 points clear.

It looked far too much for Saints with just seven minutes remaining and Wasps defending with the ferocity of a pack of angry wolves, but there was to be a late glimmer of hope.

Fotuali’i found fellow replacement Foden, who finally punctured the home defence as he found clear ground ahead of him to dart over.

Myler converted quickly, but there was still a huge task to try to get up the field with just a minute remaining.

And it couldn’t be done as Wasps turned the ball over to draw a huge roar of appreciation from the Adams Park faithful.

Wasps: Masi; Tagicakibau, Daly, Bell, Varndell; Goode (Jackson 54 (Miller 68)), Simpson (Davies 74); Mullan (Yapp 74), Festuccia (Lindsay 40), Cittadini (Cooper-Woolley 55); Launchbury, Gaskell (Myall 50); Johnson, Haskell, Hughes (Thompson 74).

Saints: Wilson (Foden 56); K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, L Dickson (Fotuali’i 50); Corbisiero (A Waller 72), Hartley (c), Ma’afu (Denman 72); Lawes, C Day (Craig 57); Clark (Fisher 72), Wood, Manoa.

Replacements not used: McMillan, Hooley.

Referee: Luke Pearce