Northampton Saints 32 Wasps 36: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

If there is one major positive to take out of Saints' opening two games of the new campaign it is that they have both been in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

Sunday, 29th September 2019, 3:18 pm
Taqele Naiyaravoro was shown a second yellow card for a high tackle on Owain James, which earned Wasps a penalty try

Because while winning the competition meant a lot last season as the black, green and gold bagged their first trophy under Chris Boyd, it has taken on a different emphasis this season.

While they would dearly love to be recording wins, Saints are far more focused on ironing things out ahead of the start of the Gallagher Premiership season on October 19.

As young prop Ehren Painter firmly put it in his post-match interview on Saturday: all roads lead to Saracens.

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Rory Hutchinson looked sharp

And Saints know that the myriad mistakes they are making at the moment must be eradicated by the time they make that typically tricky trip to Allianz Park next month.

Because if they show up and deliver some of the errors and disciplinary problems they produced against Wasps this weekend, they will be facing another Saracens horror show.

They continually gave Wasps a way back into the game and vice versa.

It made for an interesting spectacle for supporters, who witnessed a frantic Franklin's Gardens affair as both teams gave out some early Christmas presents to the opposition.

Saints and Wasps scrapped it out at Franklin's Gardens

But there wasn't much cheer at the final whistle for Saints as they suffered a second defeat in as many matches this season and a third if you include the pre-season loss to Leinster.

Wins are of course vitally important to build confidence and momentum - and how Saints will need those things when they square up Saracens in the league.

But there is still time for that, and there is still time to get rid of the issues Saints have had so far.

Every time they went ahead against Wasps - the lead changed hands a whopping nine times in all - they soon found themselves behind again.

Taqele Naiyaravoro saw red for Saints

They failed to hammer home advantages and it came back to bite them.

What also put a spanner in the works was an eventual red card for Taqele Naiyaravoro.

He picked up his first yellow during the first period for what the referee felt was a deliberate trip.

In truth, it was a debatable sin-binning as Naiyaravoro seemed to slip and stick his leg out for balance, but the Wasps player went over, and off the Saints wing went.

His second indiscretion was less debatable as his high tackle on Owain James in the corner led to the winning try for Wasps.

It was far more clumsy than it was malicious, and for a man of Naiyaravoro's size, tackling someone far smaller in such a pressure situation is always going to be tough.

Nevertheless, it was a fair call from referee Michael Hudson and it left Saints right up against it at 36-32 down.

There was still time for Saints to try to get back in front again, and they huffed and puffed as they tried to blow the Wasps door down one more time.

But, perhaps fittingly, an error let them down as they lost the ball at a lineout and Wasps booted the ball out as they celebrated a narrow success.

It was far from the outcome that Saints wanted, and for long periods, especially during the first half, deserved.

But if you can't keep your foot on the throat of the opposition, you have to expect them to keep getting up.

And that was exactly what Wasps did.

For Saints, hopes of defending the Premiership Rugby Cup are fading fast.

But with the Premiership and a return to the Champions Cup on the horizon it is far from the end of the world.

In fact, as has been pointed out on these pages previously, it may be a blessing without the disguise if they bow out because they will need those rest weekends later in the season.

What they really need now though is a couple of wins to give them a real shot in the arm in terms of belief.

And what better way to get that than by beating Saracens and Leicester Tigers during the next two weeks.

How they rated...


Made some good contributions but wasn't really able to find the space that he so often thrives in... 6


Looked so impressive early on, producing an all-action half an hour before seemingly picking up an injury while booting the ball out of play... 6


Was razor sharp at times, showing he won't let his omission from Scotland's World Cup squad affect him... 7


Was clearly keen to impress after so long on the sidelines and a couple of early passes went astray as he tried to rid himself of the rust, but he did okay overall... 6


The epitome of an eventful display from the big wing who was a constant menace in attack but who fell foul of two decisions that cost his side tries and ultimately the game... 4


Didn't have his kicking boots on as he missed some efforts he would normally expect to make, and that was problematic for Saints as they failed to really build scoreboard pressure... 5


Looked lively at times as he tried to keep the tempo high for Saints in attack. Has shown some promise but still work to do as he will know... 6


Skippered Saints and helped them get on top up front during the first half, but Wasps eventually managed to respond... 6


Grabbed a trademark Saints hooker try from the back of a hugely dominant drive and didn't do much wrong on the day... 6


Saints will be glad to see the talented young prop back in action and he had a reasonable day... 6


Will be a hugely important player again for Saints this season and he made some typically bone-crunching carries here... 7


Another big shift from the big man as he continues to get his foot in the door at Franklin's Gardens... 6


Continues to look a real prospect as he moved into the back row and competed well with some of Wasps' star men... 7


Thundered into a few tackles and refused to relent in defence as he tried to stop Wasps having it all their own way in attack... 7


Made a brilliant tap tackle early on to prevent what looked set to be a certain try and then pouched an intercept score in a lively showing... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

RYAN OLOWOFELA (for Sleightholme 33)

Another bouncy display from the wing, who came into the action earlier than expected, but he wasn't able to have a real say on proceedings... 6


Did some superb work to set up a Saints try and this was a really lively 27 minutes from the all-action flanker... 7

BEN FRANKS (for Waller 58)

Saints will often turn to this man's experience from the bench this season but he wasn't quite able to help them over the line here... 6

FRASER DINGWALL (for Symons 58)

Scored one try with a flying finish in the corner and came agonisingly close to a second that would have won it for Saints... 7

CHRON STAR MAN - Nizaam Carr (Wasps)