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Riki Flutey in action in the game.
They spent much of the game on the back foot, but intense defence kept Saracens at bay, and opportunist tries by Christian Wade and Tom Varndell, whose outstretched hand had also saved a certain try deep into the second half, ensured that Dai Young’s regime enjoyed the best possible start, and the Black and Gold supporters were sent home with a spring in their steps.
Christian Wade gave the crowd an early glimpse of his attacking threat, with a daring run from his own 22, which took him past three defenders, but it was Saracens who took the lead in the seventh minute, after Wasps were penalised at a lineout near their own line. Owen Farrell landed the straightforward kick.
Three minutes later, the Sarries flyhalf stretched the lead to six points, with another simple kick, after Wasps transgressed at a breakdown on their 22, after an attempt to attack from deep was stopped by the Saracens defence.
Jonathan Poff won the MOTM award
Wasps finally entered the Saracens half after 12 minutes, when Nick Robinson sent a penalty deep into the 22, after good work by Jonathan Poff, one of five of the starting lineup making their Wasps debut. Wasps won the lineout, and controlled the ball well through a series of phases, with Poff again featuring. Play eventually stopped, when the ball bounced into the medical team who were on the pitch, attending to Wasps skipper John Hart. From the resultant scrum, the first of the game, Wasps were awarded a penalty, just outside the Saracens 22, in front of the posts. Robinson landed the kick, to make it 6-3, after 16 minutes.
Wasps were now stringing some promising phases together, and they were rewarded with the game’s first try, after 20 minutes. It began with another powerful surge by Poff, followed with a deft offload to Richard Birkett. The ball was then moved out to the right, and Riki Flutey and Chris Bell combined well, to send Wade racing clear, on a 30-metre run to the posts. Robinson’s conversion made it 10-6 to the men in Black and Gold.
After another promising position resulted in a Saracens penalty, from a scrum near their own line, the champions began to exert some pressure, but resolute defence yielded a Wasps penalty, just inside their 22. Ben Broster then exploded from a maul, inside the Saracens half. He made 10 metres before attempting an unlikely chip, which skewed off towards the touchline, as he approached the 22, enabling the defence to snuff out the danger.
A jinking run by Robinson then launched a Wasps attack from near their 22, but the move came to an end when Tom Varndell’s pass to Richard Birkett, as they approached the 10-metre line, went slightly forward.
Three minutes from halftime, an incisive run by David Strettle, coming in to the line from the blindside wing, led to a Saracens penalty, just outside the 22. Farrell made no mistake with the kick, to narrow the gap to a single point, as the injured Wasps captain, left the field, to be replaced by Billy Vunipola. Straight from the restart, Saracens were penalised under the posts, and Robinson’s third successful kick made it 13-9 at halftime, after an encouraging opening 40 minutes.
Two minutes into the second half, an exchange of kicks ended with Wasps being penalised for not releasing, but Farrell’s long-range kick went wide.
Joe Launchbury set up a superb attacking position, when he pounced on to a loose ball near halfway, and hacked it downfield. Alex Goode went back to gather, but Launchbury forced him over the line, to give Wasps a 5-metre scrum. Saracens applied the pressure, forcing the ball to squirt out of the back row, but then knocked on, a few metres short of the 22.
Ben Broster was then replaced by Bob Baker, and Wasps immediately conceded a free-kick, as the scrum went down.
Saracens then had a glorious opportunity, when they opened up the defence down the right. Brits combined with Goode, who had Ernst Joubert unmarked on his inside, but Tom Varndell’s outstretched hand just knocked the ball out of the flanker’s reach, a few metres short of the line, to prevent a certain try.
Two minutes later, Charlie Hodgson, who’d replaced Owen Farrell, made it 13-12, with a 40-metre penalty, on his Saracens debut, after Wasps failed to roll away from the breakdown.
As the match entered the final quarter, the powerful Saracens scrum forced another penalty, 40 metres out, and 12 metres in from the right touchline. Hodgson landed a fine kick to put his side back in front, by 15 points to 13.
Saracens were now applying all the pressure, and one searing run by David Strettle almost opened up the Wasps defence. As Saracens continued to batter away at the Wasps defence, a crucial turnover, with Poff again at the heart of the action, enabled Tim Payne to sneakaway down the left. He fed Charlie Davies, who sent Tom Varndell racing away down the touchline. Although two defenders came close to him, he had the strength to keep going and cross for a memorable try, which Robinson converted, to make it 20-15, with 12 minutes left.
Payne was then replaced by another Wasps debutant, Jeremy Castex, and Saracens had an immediate chance to reduce the gap, when their scrum forced another penalty, deep inside Wasps territory, but Hodgson’s kick was off target.
Both sides had chances, in the hectic closing minutes, and it took a superb piece of covering by Robinson, to clear a dangerous position, after Saracens had kicked a loose ball deep into the Wasps 22.
With the clock at zero, Saracens had a penalty inside their 22. They launched a last desperate attack, but tenacious Wasps tackling forced a crucial turnover, and an epic win was sealed.
Wasps play their first home game of the new Premiership campaign, when they entertain Leicester Tigers at Adams Park, next Sunday, the 11th of September.
15. Hugo Southwell 14. Tom Varndell 13. Chris Bell 12. Riki Flutey 11. Christian Wade 10. Nick Robinson 9. Charlie Davies 1.Tim Payne 2. Rob Webber 3. Ben Broster 4. Richard Birkett 5. Marco Wentzel 6. Joe Launchbury 7. Jonathan Poff 8. John Hart (C)
16. Nathan Morris 17. Jeremy Castex 18.Bob Baker 19.James Cannon 20.Billy Vunipola 21. Nic Berry 22. Ryan Davis
23. Richard Haughton
15 Alex Goode 14 David Strettle 13 Adam Powell 12 Brad Barritt 11 James Short 10 Owen Farrell 9 Neil de Kock 1 Rhys Gill 2 Schalk Brits 3 Carlos Nieto 4 Steve Borthwick © 5 Mouritz Botha 6 Justin Melck 7 Andy Saull 8 Ernst Joubert
16 Jamie George 17 Deon Carstens 18 Petrus du Plessis 19 George Kruis 20 Jackson Wray 21 Ben Spencer 22 Charlie Hodgson
23 Duncan Taylor