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Josh Lewsey made a substitute appearance for Wasps
After showing glimpses of some enterprising rugby in the first half, Wasps were totally overwhelmed in the second 40, to make it a thoroughly miserable afternoon in the sunshine of Franklin’s Gardens.
Wasps were forced into three late changes to their lineup. Ben Jacobs withdrew with a hamstring injury, and Joe Simpson moved out to the wing, with Nic Berry taking his place at scrumhalf, and Josh Lewsey came on to the bench. In the forwards, Joe Ward was ruled out, and Tom Lindsay took his place as replacement hooker.
The final change was forced when Dom Waldouck injured his ankle during the warm-up, and his place on the bench was taken by Jack Wallace.
A lively opening by Wasps saw them moving the ball around with intent, and a patient buildup led to Zak Taulafo charging into the 22, only to be pulled back for a forward pass. After a threatening move of their own, the home side took the lead in the fifth minute, when Stephen Myler landed a simple penalty from in front of the posts.
Wasps came close to a try after another excellent move in which good work by Rob Webber gave Dave Walder the chance to go through a gap. He found Steve Kefu in support, but the centre was stopped just short of the line. The resultant scrum brought Wasps a penalty, and Dave Walder was on target, to level the scores, with nine minutes gone.
Saints went back on the attack, and a chargedown of Riki Flutey’s clearance gave them a penalty near the corner, which they chose to send into touch. After winning the lineout, they brought play infield, and went through several phases, before moving back out wide and Brian Mujati went over in the corner. Myler’s touchline conversion made it 10-3, after 15 minutes.
A turnover near halfway gave Northampton the chance to counterattack, and the defence was put under pressure when Wasps lost a lineout near their line. With the help of some typically crunching tackles by Joe Worsley, Saints were kept out before Kefu disappointingly limped off the field and was replaced by the young Jack Wallace who has played most of his rugby at fullback.
Saints kept up the pressure, and looked certain to score in the corner, only for Joe Simpson to deny them with a magnificent last-ditch tackle.
Northampton eventually stretched their lead after a series of dominant five-metre scrums led to the inevitable penalty try in the 27th minute. Myler’s conversion took them to 17-3.
A fine, weaving run by Dave Walder gave Wasps their best attacking position for some time but his pass out toward Joe Simpson went into touch. It was then Richard Haughton’s turn to show his running skills with a magnificent counterattacking burst from his own 22, which took him deep into the Saints half before the defence caught him, and possession was turned over.
A Myler chip into the 22 threatened the Wasps line, but Wallace had enough pace to beat Chris Ashton to the ball, as it rolled over the goal-line. Deep into injury time, Saints landed a hammer blow, when Wallace failed to gather a pass in midfield. Saints spun the ball wide and Ben Foden kicked ahead and won the race to the touchdown – the try being awarded by the TMO. Myler missed the conversion, but the halftime lead of 22-3 was a commanding one. To add to Wasps’ problems, skipper Richard Birkett had to be helped off the pitch after lengthy treatment to a facial injury.
James Cannon took Birkett’s place, at the start of the second half, and Serge Betsen replaced Joe Worsley. After a raking, diagonal kick by Dave Walder forced Ben Foden into a hurried clearance near his own line, Wasps won a lineout inside the 22 and the forwards mounted a series of drives. However without threatening to find a way through the defence the position was eventually lost when Cannon was penalised for not releasing.
With a bonus point in sight, Northampton piled on the pressure, but were guilty of some over-ambitious passes and a series of good positions were squandered, before a simple Myler penalty which stretched their led to 25-3, eleven minutes after the break.
Mark Van Gisbergen took the place of Dave Walder, after 57 minutes, with Tom Lindsay coming on for Rob Webber, a minute later.
Northampton continued to press for the bonus point and Wasps were kept firmly on the back foot rarely managing to break pout of their 22. When they did, possession was invariably turned over, enabling the home side to launch yet another attack. One run by Joe Simpson epitomised the Wasps performance. After taking up the scrumhalf position at a scrum near the Wasps line, he gathered the ball and burst out towards the right, eluding the first tackler, before spilling the ball to give Northampton an attacking scrum.
Fifteen minutes from time, Tom French replaced Tim Payne, to make his first appearance of the season. Within a minute, Northampton finally found their way over for the bonus point after the ball was moved out to the right, and a lobbed pass from Dylan Hartley found England team-mate Chris Ashton, who had the simplest of tasks to go over in the corner. Replacement Shane Geraghty added the extra points from the touchline, to make it 32- 3, with 12 minutes left.
The Franklin’s Gardens crowd then gave a generous ovation to Josh Lewsey, as he came out of nearly two years of retirement to replace Nic Berry, with Joe Simpson moving permanently to scrumhalf, with just over ten minutes to go.
Northampton added a fifth try, five minutes from time, when they applied the pressure at a Wasps scrum near their own line. With the Wasps pack retreating at a rate of knots, the ball squirted out and replacement Stuart Commins dived over. Geraghty’s conversion took the score to 39-3, which was how it stayed for the closing minutes, to make their aggregate score over the two Premiership games a crushing 76-13.
Next Sunday, Wasps are away to London Irish, in the Aviva Premiership. The following Friday evening, the 8th of April, they make the short journey to The Stoop, to face Harlequins, in the quarterfinal of the Amlin Challenge Cup. Then it’s back to the Premiership, for their final game at Adams Park this season, when they take on Leeds Carnegie, on Sunday, the 17th of April.