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After a fighting second-half rally saw Wasps cancel out a ten-point interval deficit, the visitors pulled away in the last quarter with three tries, all set up by the boot of their influential fly half Jake Sharp, whose incisive break had also set up their first-half try.
Captained for the first time by Tom Lindsay, Wasps fielded a very different side from the one which had just notched successive wins over Bath and London Irish. Amongst the new faces were fullback Danny Kirifi-Tusitala, centre John Leteru and flanker Duncan Yates - all from the Dubai Academy, now run by former Samoan star Apollo Perelini and Wasps legend Trevor Leota.
They were joined by two young South Africans – winger Marvin Christians and prop Thabiso Mngomezulu. They are here as part of an exchange scheme which will see some Wasps Academy players spending time in South Africa this summer. The list of new faces was completed by Alexandre Blot – a flanker from the Basque Country, recommended by Serge Betsen.
After Sharp missed a second-minute penalty, Wasps – playing with a gusty wind in their favour - made the more impressive start, and spent the best part of ten minutes deep inside the Saracens half, without being able to find a way through a well-organised defence.
When the visitors finally lifted the siege, Wasps were caught offside in midfield and Sharp kicked to the corner. From the lineout, Sarries forced their way over the line, but the referee adjudged that they had not grounded the ball. Almost immediately, Sharp shimmied through a gap in the defence to send centre Henry Staff over for an excellent try, which he converted, to make it 7-0 after 19 minutes.
Wasps fly half Rob Kirby missed a penalty, and the contest remained very even until Wasps lock Rob Anderson was shown the yellow card for a professional foul just inside his own 22, five minutes before halftime. Sharp extended the lead with a simple penalty, to give his side a ten-points advantage at the break.
Wasps started the second half strongly and the arrival of England Sevens winger Christian Wade, who replaced the injured John Bordiss, had an immediate effect. With his first touch, he sliced through the Saracens midfield, in an attack which led to Kirby opening his side’s account with a penalty. Will East’s powerful run then sent Wade racing away down the left and it took a superb last-ditch tackle to push him into touch at the corner.
Wade then had a glorious chance to score, after Leteru’s diagonal run created an overlap, but he dropped the pass, with the line at his mercy.
Wasps finally found their way through when a powerful maul, following a penalty kick to the corner, ended with Hugo Ellis touching down. Kirby levelled the score with a magnificent conversion from wide out.
With 25 minutes still to play it was now anybody’s game, but the physical strength of the Saracens pack was beginning to assert itself.
After Marvin Christians was caught in possession in his 22, following a long clearance kick, Sharp missed a relatively straightforward penalty. But the fly half immediately made amends with a precise chip into space near the right corner, which bounced awkwardly for the Wasps defence. When the ball emerged on the Saracens side of the ruck, replacement scrum-half Luke Baldwin sneaked down the unguarded blindside for an excellent poacher’s try.
Then, after a series of phases had stretched the Wasps defence, Sharp sent another probing kick to the corner and replacement lock Don Barrell won the race to the touchdown amidst a scramble of bodies, just before the ball rolled dead. Sharp’s conversion made it 22-10 and Saracens were now almost out of sight.
Wasps scrumhalf Matt Heeks nearly created a try, with a blindside dart down the right touchline, but it was Saracens who had the final word, deep into injury time, when Sharp sent a perfectly weighted kick towards the left touchline and the ball bounced perfectly for number 8 Jackson Wray. He charged over for the bonus point try which effectively clinches Sarries’ playoff place.
Wasps’ final A League game of the season comes on Monday the 19th, when they visit League leaders Harlequins.
Hear from Wasps A Head Coach Rob Hoadley and today's captain Tom Lindsay post match: