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Match Report

10 May 2014: Wasps v Northampton Saints

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Match Report
Saints's Badge Northampton Saints 74
Wasps's Badge Wasps 13
Fixture Type: Aviva Premiership Venue: Franklin's Gardens
Match Date: Sat 10 May 2014, Kick Off: 15:00
Referee: Luke Pearce Assistant Referee: Kevin Stewart
TV Match Official: David Sainsbury Assistant Referee: Peter Huckle

Northampton Saints 74 London Wasps 13

After their best start in some time, which saw them take a 13-0 lead inside the first quarter, Wasps were overhauled, overpowered and overwhelmed by a Northampton side whose crushing win guaranteed home advantage in next weekend’s Premiership play-offs.

With a strong wind at their backs, Wasps went ahead after three minutes, through an opportunist try from Charlie Davies. His superb kick, from his own 22, had found touch on the Northampton 22. Northampton won the lineout, but Davies charged down Lee Dickson’s attempted clearance, and followed up to touch down near the left corner. Joe Carlisle was unable to land a difficult conversion.

Wasps then produced several minutes of controlled play, moving the ball out wide on both sides of the pitch, before making excellent ground down the left, where a knock-on ended an impressive move.

Moments later, Nathan Hughes blasted his way through the centre of the home defence, to set up an excellent position inside the 22. Wasps’ passing let them down, as they tried to move the ball out wide, and Saints were able to gather and launch a counterattack, before knocking on, just inside the Wasps half.

After 11 minutes, another fine Davies kick was taken into touch on the Northampton 22. Wasps won the lineout, Northampton were penalised, and Joe Carlisle’s successful penalty stretched the lead to eight points.

Two minutes later, Wasps added a second try, after Nathan Hughes charged down a Ben Foden kick on half-way. The ball bounced into his arms and he fed Tom Varndell, who raced in from 40 metres, for his second Premiership try of the season. Carlisle’s conversion hit the left post and bounced just the wrong side of the bar.

When Northampton finally set up a position in the Wasps 22, they sent two penalties to the left corner. From the second, the forwards were gathering momentum, but Hughes and Guy Thompson combined to steal the ball, and Thompson found touch to relieve the pressure.

The Wasps defence was finally breached in the 21st minute, when a turnover in midfield set up the chance for George North to step inside one tackle and go over for a try, which Stephen Myler converted to reduce the Wasps lead to 13-7.

Three minutes later, another penalty to the corner produced a catch and drive, which ended with Northampton skipper Phil Dowson applying the finishing touch, for his side’s second try, in the right corner. Myler missed the conversion, but the Wasps lead was now down to a single point.

Myler soon made amends, when he went over for the third Northampton try, after Ben Foden gathered a Wasps clearance and broke the defensive line, before passing to the flyhalf who had a clear run in from the 22. He made no mistake with a much easier conversion, to make the score 19-13 to the home side.

Myler added another three points after Wasps were penalised at a scrum inside their 22, seven minutes before the break.

Within a minute, Wasps’ woes were compounded, when Nathan Hughes was sent to the sin bin, for an offence at the breakdown. It seemed a harsh decision, as he had tackled a Northampton player, before getting to his feet and gathering the ball.

Northampton immediately took advantage of their numerical superiority, when the Wasps defence failed to gather a kick to the corner. Ken Pisi went over the line, but the TMO ruled that he had put a foot in touch.

The home side were not to be denied, and good work in midfield created the opportunity for Luther Burrell to go over for the bonus point try, a minute before the break. Myler’s conversion drifted to the right of the posts, leaving Northampton with a 27-13 halftime lead.

The second half started badly for Wasps, as Charlie Davies knocked on Myler’s long kick-off, deep inside his 22. The scrum produced a penalty, which Lee Dickson took quickly, only to lose possession as he went for the line. From the next scrum the Northampton pack put on the pressure, and Dickson dived in to touch down, as the ball crossed the line. Myler had an easy conversion.

The game was now being played at a frenetic place, with both sides moving the ball at every opportunity. The strong wind made passing hard, and there were numerous handling errors.

Northampton came close to another try, after Tommy Bell was unable to gather a kick inside his 22. James Wilson gathered to power his way over the line, but the defence managed to prevent him from grounding the ball.

Northampton had an attacking scrum, joined by England prop Alex Corbisiero who came off the bench for his first appearance after a lengthy injury lay-off. Surprisingly, the ball came out on the Wasps side, but Nathan Hughes lost possession as he tried to break clear, and Ben Foden gathered to go over for another try, which Wilson converted, to give the home side a huge 41-13 lead.

On the hour, Northampton added their seventh try, when Lee Dickson went over between the posts. Wilson’s conversion was another formality.

Northampton brought up the inevitable half century, after a promising Wasps attack down the right. Guy Thompson’s pass was intercepted, and George North was sent racing away for his second try of the afternoon, despite a valiant chase by James Short. Wilson’s conversion came back off the post.

Ken Pisi was the next try scorer, racing through with 12 minutes to go. Wilson again added the conversion. Seven minutes from time, Wasps were again reduced to 14 men, when Chris Bell was shown yellow, for an illegal tackle. Northampton immediately rubbed more salt in the wound, when Tom Stephenson was adjudged to have won the race to a grubber kick, to touch down just before the ball went dead. Elliot Daly can feel aggrieved, as he appeared to have got his hand to the ball before the Northampton replacement. Wilson’s conversion meant that Northampton had recorded the largest win of the Premiership season.

There was still time for another Northampton score, in the final minute, when Phil Dowson crashed over for his second try of the afternoon. Wilson’s conversion was the final act in an afternoon best forgotten.

With the regular Premiership season now over, Wasps now turn their attention to the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup play-off. The first leg against Stade Francais will be at Adams Park, on Sunday the 18th of May. The second leg is in Paris, on Saturday the 24th.