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London Wasps have ensured they cannot be overtaken in second place in the Zurich Premiership with a 45-24 victory over Saracens at the Causeway Stadium.
Two tries each for Joe Worsley and Man of the Match Paul Sackey, plus scores for Voyce and Erinle and a 100% kicking record by Mark Van Gisbergen, that saw him slot six conversions and a penalty, completed Wasps account.
Wasps played a scorching first forty minutes of rugby, that Director of Rugby Warren Gatland described after the match as “as good as we’ve ever played, and meant that by half time the match was as good as won.
Saracens struggled to gain any possession at all in the first twenty minutes, as Worsley, Sackey and Erinle all breached the visitors defence with apparent ease, although when Saracens did gain the ball it was decisive, hooker Matt Cairns intercepting for their only try of the half in the 12th minute, sprinting in unchallenged to close the gap to 10-7 after Van Gisbergen had slotted a penalty to go with Worsley’s opening try.
The Wasps man scored after just 6 minutes, put through a gap in midfield by fly half Alex King after an early Van Gisbergen break had had Saracens defence scrambling from the start. Gisbergen’s penalty came four minutes later, after Saracens had conceded in attempting to halt a Wasps forward rumble that saw them advance a good 30 metres up the middle of the park.
Sackey scored his first ten minutes later, when a long cut out pass from Josh Lewsey, playing in the twelve shirt, was gathered by the winger. The Saracens defence has drifted in, and Sackey found himself in acres of space with the try line at his mercy.
From the restart, Ayoola Erinle went on his first charging run of the day, and broke three tackles before spilling the ball forward as a try looked imminent. Only three minutes later however, he made sure that he converted his chance. Despite taking the ball standing, the powerful centre stepped on the gas as he feinted past centre Thomas Castaignede and also evaded Saracens winger Tevita Vaikona to go over near the posts.
Saracens clawed back three points on the half hour when winger Ben Johnston launched their most promising attack of the half, breaking down the wing before Wasps defence conceded an easy penalty for fly half Nicky Little to convert for 24-10.
Sackey came close to his second score five minutes later, when scrum half Matt Dawson fed him from a quickly taken penalty. However, referee Steve Lander adjudged Sackey had spilled the ball as he was tackled over the line.
With one minute remaining on the clock, Saracens hooker Cairns found himself on the wrong end of an interception, Erinle anticipating his pass to offload smoothly to Tom Voyce, the winger purring over for the bonus point score.
Despite having had more than enough scoring action for an entire game, Wasps finished the half with a fifth score deep in injury time. Sackey, who had a great game in defence and attack, was on the end of another Lewsey long ball to notch up his second score in the 44th minute. Lewsey, fed by lock Simon Shaw, found himself running up the middle of the park unchallenged, but as the defence closed around him he launched a high lob ball over them all to find Sackey out wide. The winger turned on the pace to scorch round Saracens covering winger and Wasps finished the half with a commanding 31-10 lead.
It would have been remarkable if Wasps had been able to maintain this pace in the second half, and unfortunately they could not. Saracens brought on the replacements, amongst them Richard Hill, and shortly after the departure of Wasps fly half Alex King on the 50th minute, Saracens replacement centre Kevin Sorrell was sprung through the gap by Little, managing to touch down despite a last ditch tackle from Van Gisbergen.
Another Saracens break on the hour, Little and Castaignede combining to put the winger away, looked to be the source of their third score, but referee Lander pulled them back for a forward pass, and Wasps pushed back into the game and the Saracens half for the next ten minutes. A concerted catch and drive by Wasps also looked to have the markings of a try as the forwards edged onwards towards the whitewash, but yet again the score was denied, the referee adjudging the maul to have stopped moving forward.
With less than five minutes on the clock, Saracens were still playing for a point as Castaignede put Hill through a gap in midfield to score, Little’s conversion making it 38-24. The final minutes were Wasps however, Brooks springing Worsley clean through under the posts for his second and Wasps sixth, Van Gisbergen rounding off his perfect kicking record for a conclusive 45-24 victory.
Director of Rugby Warren Gatland was quick to praise his side after the game, saying, “The pace, the tempo and intensity of that first half was just at another level. The players have trained really well all week, and were very, very up for this game. It was a good marker to see how far we have come since the start of this season, but it was hard to keep the momentum up in the second half, knowing the game was won.