Wasps complete the double over Northampton
Wasps complete league double over Northampton and close in on play-off spot
Wasps moved to within one win of clinching an Aviva Premiership play-off spot for the first time since 2008 with a 28-6 triumph over Northampton.
This result, which clinched their first league double over Saints for more than a decade, was built on the back of two Rob Miller tries. But in truth the hosts struggled for fluency for long periods, while their lineout misfired badly. They will need to improve significantly to beat Exeter in either next week’s European Cup quarter final, or the crucial league match at Sandy Park two weeks later, which now seems likely to determine who claims the second home semi-final alongside Saracens.
Wasps were penalised at an early maul, which the referee incorrectly adjudged to be a tackle, and Stephen Myler kicked the penalty from 45 metres. The visitors had a gusty breeze at their backs and they dominated possession in the early stages without threatening the home line. The hosts then thought they had scored only to be denied by the TMO. Rob Miller stepped his way over from 30 metres after Nathan Hughes’ initial incision and some good handling, but after a lengthy review the grounding was ruled unproven.
Wasps twice spurned kicks at goal for driving lineout attempts, but Saints’ defence held firm, and eventually they won a turnover. The visitors’ front row was under pressure in the tight and Jimmy Gopperth hit the post with a penalty attempt when they were penalised on their own 10-metre line. The Kiwi fly half was more successful at the end of the opening quarter with a 25 metre kick when Northampton infringed on the ground following George Smith’s speedy burst.
Better followed for the hosts, when Miller claimed the score which had earlier eluded him. The England Saxons’ full back scorched in from 30 metres after Smith and Thomas Young continued the initial burst made by Frank Halai, who out-jumped two Saints to Myler’s cross-kick. The visitors twice worked overlaps down their left only to be foiled by the hosts’ cover defence, but they struggled for penetration in midfield despite enjoying plentiful possession.
On-loan Wasps’ scrum half Craig Hampson then picked off a loose pass and raced 60 metres, only for Joe Launchbury’s inside pass to be intercepted by Ken Pisi.
Saints began the second period strongly and Kahn Fotuali’i sniped to within seven metres of the home lie only for his front row to be penalised at the resulting scrum. The visitors’ scrum again fell foul of Mr Pearce’s whistle a few minutes later and Elliot Daly blasted over a 56 metre penalty. Wasps’ ten-point lead was short-lived however, as Myler claimed his second penalty of the afternoon when Wasps front row were penalised.
Wasps’ line-out was really struggling and they had very little possession in the third quarter after losing four of their own throws. After a threatening burst from North ended with a Wasps scrum deep in their own 22, Hughes escaped 40 metres before kicking ahead for Christian Wade who was denied by Saints’ cover. The hosts then put the match beyond Northampton with Miller’s second try. The full back cut an excellent line onto Smith’s inside offload and raced 40 metres to the line for a converted score.
Northampton attacked from behind their own line, but replacement full back Tom Collins was eventually dispossessed on halfway and when the visitors infringed at the resulting scrum Daly fired over his second penalty of the day from beyond halfway. A neat Wasps’ lineout move nearly sent Hughes barging over, but when he was held in goal, replacement scrum half Jamie Stevenson crossed on the blindside from the resulting scrum to put a more convincing gloss on the final score.
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