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A try by Edd Thrower with his first touch of the ball, helped Wasps secure a narrow 10-9 win over Northampton Saints at a rain-drenched Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday. It was Wasps’ third victory of the season and sent a message to the rest of the Premiership that Wasps can win, even with a massive injury list.
The hype surrounding the game was mainly due to Matt Dawson and his return to his former club. The scrumhalf was given a warm reception by the Northampton crowd, something he was really appreciative of after the game.
Wasps came into the game on the back of two successive wins and with a side depleted of their superstars. The first half was played in pouring rain and saw chances from both sides go amiss. Saints flyhalf Shane Drahm was the first to put the points on the scoreboard with three successive penalties. Nine-nil down wasn’t what Warren Gatland wanted and his frustration must have grown when Alex King and Mark Van Gisbergen missed three successive penalties. It’s rare that these two kickers miss and the pressure started to mount.
The wet conditions didn’t help either and it seemed that every time a player from either side made a break, he lost his footing and control of the ball. Peter Richards played a great attacking game from centre and set up a number of moves for Rob Hoadley and Van Gisbergen to run into. Unfortunately they just couldn’t score not only due to the wet conditions but also some solid defence from Saints.
Just before the break, King was given his third penalty attempt and landed it to make it 9-3 to the home side.
It’s no secret that Wasps prefer to play in the heat and sunshine and at half time, amazingly after heavy downpours, the sun came out. Gatland made one tactical replacement during the break and brought on Thrower for Michael Roberts.
Thrower, who joined Wasps from London Irish in the off-season, didn’t take long to get into the game as he scored a try with his first touch of the ball. In fact, the announcer had barely finished saying his name before the burly winger with a big boot picked up a pass off Richards and darted away to score his first Premiership try for Wasps.
Gatland admitted that he brought on Thrower because of his ‘big kicking boot’ as he felt Saints were targeting that side of the field and someone needed to kick it out. King added the conversion to make it 10-9 in Wasps’ favour within the first three minutes of the second half.
The remainder of the game saw Saints throw everything at Wasps, including Andrew Blowers. The influential No.8 caused problems for the side with some powerful runs off the back of the scrum. However, with the good comes the bad as we saw with Blowers knocking the ball on twice with the tryline begging.
As the clock counted down, Saints started to panic and it was Wasps who found the composure to keep their heads in the face of a concerted attack. It must be said that Drahm missed two rather easy penalties at goal that would have restored their lead but thankfully for Wasps he didn’t.
Dawson’s game was rather rugged as the Wasps pack battled in the scrums. A scrumhalf needs his pack going forward but Dawson did enough to keep his backline going forward.
The tackle of the game must go to Phil Greening who left Robinson wondering what day it was. Robinson made a good break from a ruck and had an overlap on his outside. However he chose to take on Greening and was left lying down and out.
Van Gisbergen was Wasps’ Man of the Match as he had a fantastic game in the No.15 jersey. He was tested a number of times with the high ball and passed every test. His kicking and tackling were outstanding which proved that he is one of the best fullbacks in this league.
The final 10 minutes were nailbiting as Saints once again came close to scoring but as the great Shaun Edward always says, “Defence wins championships. The Wasps defence held on and Gatland’s side secured a narrow 10-9 win for their third victory of the season.
Gatland said, “I was really pleased at how we pulled together today given the circumstances with all our injuries. The youngsters stood up today and proved that we can win, even with injuries. Northampton is never an easy place to win at, but I’m over the moon with this win.
Pen: Drahm 3
Drahm: x pen; 0 pen;0 pen; 0 pen; x pen; x pen;
King: x pen; x pen; 0 pen; 0 con;
Van Gisbergen: x pen;