Saints kids shine in superb win against Wasps
Saints showed they can win things with kids as their youthful side put Wasps to the sword at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday afternoon.
Alex Moon, Fraser Dingwall and George Furbank all started for the first time in the Gallagher Premiership, and each of them delivered a huge performance for their team.
And the moment of the match arrived in the second half as another Premiership debutant, Ollie Sleightholme, finished superbly seconds after coming on.
Saints' more senior players also excelled as the entire team stood tall for the full 80 minutes to record a bonus-point 36-17 success.
Taqele Naiyaravoro was one of the stars of the show as he and fellow Australian wing Andrew Kellaway tormented Wasps at every turn.
Both players got on the scoresheet, with Piers Francis and Academy graduates Dingwall and Sleightholme also registering.
Wasps were on the back foot for long periods as Saints turned in their best display of the Chris Boyd era so far to pick up their third Premiership win of the season.
It was all Saints from the off as they made Wasps pay for the concession of two early penalties.
And after a spell of pressure on the away side's line, James Grayson produced a moment of magic, sending an incredibly accurate crossfield kick over to Kellaway, who collected and showed great strength to score in the corner under real pressure.
Grayson missed the tricky touchline conversion, but Saints were playing with a real swagger and at a tempo that Wasps were struggling to live with.
The away side finally got some territory as a scrum penalty helped them put the squeeze on Saints, but the hosts defended stoically against the drive and won the put in.
And after clearing their lines, Saints again put real pressure on Wasps, doing enough to earn a penalty in front of the posts, with Grayson landing it to take his team into an 8-0 lead.
Wasps were desperately trying to put Saints under siege but there was a really fresh, energetic and hungry feel to the home side, who were pushing their opponents back and forcing errors.
Wasps did get the chance to grab some points when referee Matthew O'Grady awarded a harsh penalty against Lewis Ludlam at the breakdown, but Lima Sopoaga spurned the opportunity.
And Saints were soon back on the front foot, putting together a huge drive that looked destined to result in a try before Wasps No.7 Thomas Young was sent to the sin bin.
After a string of penalties, Saints opted to go for the posts, with Grayson adding another three points to the tally.
And the moment of the first half was to come soon after as Naiyaravoro produced some brilliance, beating a man on the edge of his own 22, racing into the Wasps half and offloading to Dingwall, who had made a fine support run and finished with a flourish.
Grayson missed the conversion and Wasps finally got on the board just before the break thanks to a Sopoaga penalty.
But Saints came out of the blocks quickly again after the break and they thought they had scored when Naiyaravoro cut a nice line and dotted down.
But the referee went to the TMO to see if he had obstructed Wasps in the build-up, and O'Grady deemed that he had, ruling the try out and giving Saints a scrum.
It didn't take long for them to get the score though as Francis was driven over in the corner.
But Grayson, who was having a difficult day from the tee, again missed the conversion and the lead remained at 21-3.
Wasps finally got their first try on 51 minutes as they drove flanker Young towards the line and the TMO and referee decided he had made it to register the score.
Sopoaga converted and the away side saw fresh hope breathed into their bid to claim the win with just 10 points between the teams and 29 minutes remaining.
But Saints had played so well for so long and they were not deterred by the concession of that try, instead responding impressively.
Kellaway did some fine work to draw the contact and offload to Naiyaravoro out wide, with the big Australian wing bulldozing his way past full-back Rob Miller for a deserved score.
Francis took over kicking duties but sent his difficult conversion just wide of the left post.
However, the centre soon made up for that with a penalty after a slick Saints counter-attack.
And the moment of the match was to come with 10 minutes to go as Luther Burrell and Sleightholme, both of whom had just seconds earlier emerged from the bench, combined brilliantly.
Burrell timed the pass perfectly and Sleightholme turned on the turbos as he raced down the right and slid in to score in the corner.
It was a magic moment for the youngster and Francis put the icing on the cake with the successful conversion.
Wasps responded with some patient play that led to a Josh Bassett score, with Billy Searle converting well.
But it was nowhere near enough as Saints claimed a sizeable victory that was no less than they deserved.
Saints: Furbank; Kellaway (Sleightholme 70), Dingwall (Burrell 70), Francis, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Reinach (Mitchell 66); Waller (c) (Davis 65), Fish (Marshall 58), Franks (Garside 40); Ribbans (Ratuniyarawa 58), Moon; Wood, Ludlam, Harrison (Gibson 57).
Wasps: Miller; Watson (Le Bourgeois 46), de Jongh, Lovobalavu, Bassett; Sopoaga (Searle 63), Simpson (Hampson 54); B Harris (West 65), Cruse (A Harris 65), Brookes (Cooper-Woolley 54); Rowlands, Gaskell (Myall 65); Johnson (c), Young, Willis (Morris 59).
Referee: Matthew O'Grady