Wasps 31 Northampton Saints 35: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

With five minutes to go, it looked like it was going to be another one of those days at the Ricoh Arena for Saints.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 6th January 2020, 2:52 pm
Updated Monday, 6th January 2020, 3:11 pm
Teimana Harrison delivered a try during an all-action display at the Ricoh Arena
Teimana Harrison delivered a try during an all-action display at the Ricoh Arena

Actually, it looked like it might be the worst one yet.

Because after getting what looked like a stranglehold on the game, Saints, who had never previously won at the Ricoh in the Premiership, somehow let Wasps off the hook.

A 28-10 lead became a 31-28 deficit seemingly in the blink of the eye.

Not only that, 15 men rapidly became 13 as Tom Collins was sent off and Cobus Reinach was sin-binned.

It looked like being a second-half horror show, even if Saints had pocketed a losing bonus to add to their earlier try bonus point.

Wasps were on the charge and the momentum had completely swung their way.

It was almost surreal as Saints had been dominant for so long.

Dan Biggar made a brilliant break for Saints' opening score

Aside from a Marcus Watson sucker punch, brilliantly engineered by Malakai Fekitoa, the men in grey and green appeared calm, composed and hungry for tries.

In fact, they probably should have been far further ahead than the four-point lead they enjoyed at the break.

Wasps had been struggling to get out of their own half, despite delivering some bone-crunching hits and producing prolonged periods of resilience.

And when Tom Wood and Cobus Reinach scored two tries in the space of 11 second-half minutes, there looked to be only one winner.

Cobus Reinach scored Saints' first try on Sunday afternoon

But that was where Saints stopped and Wasps started.

The hosts brought the likes of Sione Vailanu and, most notably, Jimmy Gopperth off the bench.

And Gopperth, so often a tormentor of Saints, helped to turn the tide in his team's favour.

Suddenly, Saints were all at sea, with gaps appearing at an alarming rate and not enough buckets on board to shift the water out of a rapidly sinking ship.

That was until the final five minutes, when they finally regained a foothold in the game.

Wave after wave of attack came Wasps' way, and they eventually buckled thanks to the brute strength of Taqele Naiyaravoro.

The away fans, who outsung their home counterparts, were left delirious, and after the metronomic Dan Biggar converted, Saints saw it out to secure a memorable win.

Yes, it shouldn't have needed to be so memorable.

Saints should have sewn the game up at 28-10 ahead, as teams like Saracens and Exeter most likely would have done.

But it was another step in their evolution and another lesson that they can learn without any real damage being done.

They will have to be better for longer in games against better teams.

But another win on the road is so welcome and the perfect way for them to start the year, however it came.

This Saints team rarely fails to produce excitement and heart-stopping moments.

And they will now desperately hope they can keep themselves alive in Europe during the next two weeks.

How they rated...


Did everything he had to do well, handling Wasps' relentless kicking game during the first half... 6.5


Produced a really strong first-half showing, including the superb lofted pass out wide for Harrison's try... 7


Produced a lovely pass that led to Saints' first try and was always probing to keep Wasps on their toes... 7


Was penalised for a pull on Nizaam Carr that was to cost Saints during the second half and was stripped of the ball by Malakai Fekitoa during the first period... 5.5


Not an easy day for the talented wing as he saw his space shut down quickly by Wasps and his match ended with an injury and a red card... 5


Pure class from the fly-half again as he kicked every point that came his way, set up the first try with a brilliant break and also delivered some slick rugby, catching passes one-handed and slaloming past players at will... 8


Deliberate knock-on and subsequent penalty try aside, this was another superb showing from the scrum-half, who was simply electric at times, scoring twice... 8


Made a huge charge in the build-up to Harrison's score and this was an impressive display overall from the prop... 7


Not an easy day in the lineout for Saints, but that can't all be blamed on the hooker, and he put his body on the line for his team... 6


The prop more than held his own in the scrum as Saints put pressure on Wasps, and he did his best to get involved around the park... 7


Another impressive showing from the lock as he tried to use his power to carry his team forward... 7


Showed his importance to the team with a fiery display that included some big carries and hits... 7


Came up with some crucial turnovers during the first half and kept battering away at the Wasps door late on to help his team get over the line... 7.5


Showed great awareness as he charged down Dan Robson to score an important try just after the break, and delivered a strong overall showing... 7.5


Yet another all-action display from the No.8, who beat defenders for fun, made some key tackles and carries and also etched his name on the scoresheet... 8.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

FRANCOIS VAN WYK (for Waller 55)

Some useful contributions from the prop, who made some crucial metres for his team as they fought back late on... 6

OWEN FRANKS (for Hill 55)

Got some more crucial minutes under his belt and will hope to play a big part during the next few weeks... 6

LEWIS LUDLAM (for Wood 57)

Came on at a difficult time as Wasps were starting to get the upper hand, but did what he could to get a grip on them... 6

SAM MATAVESI (for Haywood 57)

Made his tackles when he had to and helped Saints to keep hold of the ball late on under real pressure... 6