Saints welcome fans home with win against Wasps
Fans' favourite Tom Wood put the finishing touches to Saints' 30-25 win against Wasps as Chris Boyd's side welcomed their supporters back with a bang on Saturday afternoon.
It was a fitting finish for Saints as Wood scored close to the same corner as when he sent the home supporters into delirium during the 2014 Premiership semi-final win against Leicester.
And it was the perfect way to welcome fans back to Franklin's Gardens for the first time since December.
Saints gave it their all in front of 4,000 onlookers, throwing everything they had into delivering the win.
Eventually it came as Wasps, who had come back three times to level during the first half, found themselves beaten in an enthralling, sun-soaked encounter.
Saints, led by Alex Waller on his 300th club appearance, had initially emerged to a wealth of noise - finally - and immediately welcomed their fans home with a moment to savour.
Dan Biggar booted the ball to the corner from distance and the pack did the rest, rumbling over in inexorable fashion, allowing Sam Matavesi to celebrate the score.
Biggar converted to the delight of the watching Carlsberg Stand, and Saints had lift off inside the opening five minutes.
Wasps had a big chance to respond in similar fashion after winning a scrum penalty deep in Saints territory, but the hosts held firm and turned the ball over.
It was nip and tuck until 20 minutes in, when Thomas Young made an incredible scything break and Dan Robson was in support to deliver the score.
Jacob Umaga converted and it was all square at 7-7, with the vocal set of Wasps fans in the Barwell Stand now smiling more broadly.
But Umaga was the villain for Wasps five minutes later as he played the ball from an offside position when chasing back, earning him a yellow card and gifting Saints a penalty try.
However, rather than take advantage of having a man more, Saints slipped back, giving Wasps field position and allowing them to power their way over the line through Brad Shields.
Atkinson converted in the absence of Umaga to level the scores for the second time.
But Saints were soon back in front, winning a penalty at a scrum, allowing Biggar to easily notch three points.
Tommy Freeman then issued yet another reminder of his talent as he slalomed from inside his own half, taking Saints all the door in Wasps' 22.
The away side were under real pressure as Umaga returned from the sin bin but the Saints lineout was their get-out clause as the hosts were having a tough time finding their man in the air.
And, yet again, Wasps drew level before the break as Umaga landed a penalty.
It was to be a frantic start to the second half as Saints threatened before Josh Bassett intercepted, only to be hunted down by the rapid Ollie Sleightholme, who prevented what seemed a certain try.
Wasps then quickly had one ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up after Zach Kibirige had dotted down.
Saints were able to go back in front eight minutes into the second half as Biggar again did the business from the tee.
But the Wasps lineout was causing problems and they almost launched a score from inside their own half, only for Kibirige to be denied by the final bounce of the ball.
Sleightholme was then denied in even crueller fashion for a knock-on right at the start of what would have been one of the best tries the Gardens had seen in some time.
The Saints wing charged from inside his own half, kicked ahead and won the race, only to find himself rightly denied by the TMO.
Saints stretched their lead through another Biggar penalty but Wasps were still posing a real threat and had Will Rowlands seen the men outside him, the away side would surely have scored.
Wasps did win a penalty though, reducing the deficit to three points thanks to Umaga's kick.
But Saints would not let the away side go in front, instead pouncing after the away side fluffed a lineout close to their own line, with Wood the man who showed the awareness to score.
Biggar converted and the gap was now a healthy 10 points with 10 minutes to go.
Wasps still refused to go quietly, and they scored again through Tom Willis with just seconds to go.
There was enough time to restart the game, but Manny Iyogun, a late replacement for Waller, got over the ball on his home debut and won a penalty that put the seal on the Saints win.
'Oh When The Saints' rang out at the final whistle as the supporters celebrated a hugely enjoyable return to their home stadium.
Saints: Freeman; Sleightholme, Proctor, Dingwall (Francis 30), Naiyaravoro; Biggar (Grayson 72), James; Waller (cc) (Iyogun 70), Matavesi (Haywood 59), Hill (Painter 59); Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa (Moon 59); Lawes (Coles 67), Ludlam (cc), Wood.
Wasps: Atkinson; Kibirige (Miller 76), Odogwu (Gopperth 55), Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Umaga, Robson (Vellacott 76); West (McIntyre 63), Oghre (Cruse 63), Alo (Toomaga-Allen 34); Rowlands, Gaskell; Shields (c), Young (Vailanu 72), T Willis.
Referee: Adam Leal