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Wasps celebrate victory over Saracens
With ten minutes of this game left, Wasps were facing a fourth consecutive defeat at Adams Park. Saracens had taken an eight-point lead, but an amazing turnaround saw the defending champions score three late tries, to secure a priceless victory, and send them into the festive season on the back of four successive wins.
It was the appearance of substitute and Man of the Match – for the fourth time this season - Dave Walder which sparked the revival and the energy and enterprise of Joe Simpson was another key element in an extraordinary late show.
Wasps were forced into a late change, when Dominic Waldouck suffering from a tight thigh was replaced by Rob Hoadley in the starting lineup.
Wasps made an impressive start and came close to a try inside the opening minute, following a darting blindside break from Eoin Reddan. He had Paul Sackey outside him, but his pass was just behind the winger. Wasps kept up the pressure and again went close on the right after a series of controlled phases. They took the lead on five minutes when Saracens transgressed at the breakdown, right in front of the posts, after Danny Cipriani fed Sackey who’d come into the line from the blindside. Cipriani made no mistake with the simple kick.
A minute later a Glen Jackson penalty put Sarries level. They were penalised from the restart, but Cipriani missed a straightforward penalty. He immediately tried to make amends with a long-range drop at goal which fell short of the target. Wasps again came close, when Tim Payne emerged from a maul, just outside his own 22, to send Tom Voyce away down the left. The winger chipped ahead, but Jackson was covering well, and managed to gather the ball and clear the danger.
On 13 minutes, Wasps extended their lead, with a Cipriani penalty from in front of the posts. A Josh Lewsey interception set up another Wasps attack but possession was turned over before a deft flick off the ground from Tom Rees just failed to find the hands of Simon Shaw, with acres of space ahead of him down the left.
After 18 minutes a powerful burst by James Haskell, from the base of a scrum, set up another penalty chance for Wasps with an accompanying yellow card for Sarries flanker Wickus Van Heerden, but Cipriani pushed his 40-metre kick wide of the posts. Wasps could not exploit their one-man advantage and the score remained unchanged during Van Heerden’s spell in the bin. As soon as he returned, Jackson levelled the score with a 45-metre penalty which was rather against the run of play.
After the lively opening to the game things became rather scrappier with a series of long kicks interspersed with offences at the breakdown. It took another powerful burst from Haskell to lift the crowd and inject some much-needed pace to the game. After another series of controlled phases led to a scrum, at which Saracens offended, Cipriani landed his third penalty, three minutes into injury time, to put Wasps back in front. A minute later, Jackson had the chance to level the score but his penalty attempt was off target leaving the halftime score 9-6.
Wasps had looked the likelier side throughout the opening forty minutes, but had again failed to find the finishing touch. Encouragingly they had shown a far greater willingness to move the ball, and it seemed that one clinical piece of finishing could really unleash the try scoring potential the team clearly has.
Five minutes after the break, Tom Palmer was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock on just inside his own 22 and Jackson’s penalty made the score 9-9. Sarries then applied the pressure, and the game’s first try looked on, following some neat interpassing amongst the forwards, but they conceded a crucial penalty, just short of the Wasps line, when hooker Fabio Ongaro went off his feet at the breakdown. A minute later, they exploited their one-man advantage, when the backs made room for Noah Cato to go over in the left corner. Jackson’s conversion was just wide.
Saracens now began to take control, winning a series of turnovers and they went further ahead on 66 minutes when Lachlan Mitchell was beaten by a tricky bounce and caught in possession under the posts. He was penalised for not releasing and Jackson added another penalty to put his side eight points ahead. Mitchell was then replaced by Dave Walder, whose first action was to kick a 30-metre penalty. Two further Wasps substitutions saw Joe Ward and Joe Simpson coming on for Rob Webber and Eoin Reddan respectively.
It was Simpson who featured prominently when Wasps finally crossed the Sarries line on 74 minutes. The young scrumhalf gave Walder the chance to send Rob Hoadley over near the posts, and Walder’s kick gave his side a narrow lead. A minute later, Cato made a mess of Walder’s kick-ahead. First, he let the ball roll under his foot, then his kick was charged down by Sackey who gleefully followed up to dive over for a crucial try which Walder duly converted.
Walder then set up a third try when he danced through the defence to send Josh Lewsey over under the posts. His conversion put Wasps 16 points clear and an unlikely bonus point was now within reach. Despite their best efforts, they could not secure the fourth try, and it was the visitors who finished the game with a consolation try from Cato, when he rounded Cipriani to cross for another fine try. Jackson converted to make the final score 33-24.
Bolstered by a fourth consecutive victory, Wasps will now look to maintain their winning momentum as they head to Sale for their Boxing Day clash and then look ahead to their second London Derby facing Quins at home on the 4th January - ticets for this game are still on sale - click here to buy online or call the Ticket Hotline on 0870 414 1515.