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A late penalty by Owen Farrell denied the Men in Black and Gold a deserved bonus point.
After five minutes of play, Wasps were forced into a concussion replacement when Joe Launchbury went down in a collision, after he’d gathered a long lineout throw, 15 metres inside the Saracens half. He left the field looking extremely groggy, to be replaced by Tom Palmer. To the great relief of the home crowd, his absence only lasted two minutes, and his return was greeted by a huge cheer.
His immediate contribution was to play a part in a powerful scrum which won a penalty, just inside the Saracens half. Elliot Daly stepped up to send the ball flying between the posts, giving his side the lead after 8 minutes.
Two minutes later, the crowd was cheering even more loudly. Saracens won possession from a lineout, and moved the ball out to the left. They appeared to have an overlap, but Christian Wade intercepted, shook off an attempted tackle and raced 60 metres for his tenth Premiership try of the season, which Stephen Jones converted.
A minute later, the lead became 13 points, as Daly stroked over another penalty, from 45 metres.
Saracens came back with an opportunist try, following a quick tap penalty, 35 metres out. Chris Ashton was the first to tap, but was called back. With Wasps then expecting a kick at goal, Alex Goode took another tap and took play out to the inviting space to the left. He passed Chris Wyles, who had the strength to power through Wade’s tackle and go over in the corner. Owen Farrell’s conversion went to the left of the posts.
With snow now falling, Farrell had another chance for points, with a penalty, which followed a series of reset scrums inside the Wasps 22. This time, his kick was wide to the right.
Saracens remained camped in Wasps territory, and were soon awarded another penalty, this time for an offence at the breakdown, with 26 minutes gone. This time, from the middle of the field and just short of 40 metres out, Farrell made no mistake, to narrow the gap to 13-8.
With four minutes left before the break, further Saracens pressure appeared to have set up a try, as Mako Vunikola crossed the line, only to lose control of the ball as he went to ground it. It bounced into the hands of the relieved Wasps captain Marco Wentzel, who cleared to touch.
In the final minute of the half, Saracens were reduced to fourteen men, as Mouritz Botha was shown a yellow card, for playing the ball in an offside position. There was just time to send the penalty to the corner, but Wasps were penalised as they drove towards the line, and the halftime whistle blew with the home side still protecting a narrow lead.
Wasps dominated territory and possession at the start of the second half, but were unable to find their way through the Saracens defence, despite their numerical advantage. In the final minute of Botha’s absence, they produced their best attack of the half, with Elliot Daly finding space on the left, and Joe Launchbury powering their way deep into the 22, before the ball was buried beneath a pile of bodies and Saracens were awarded the put-in to the scrum.
Rhys Thomas came on for Tom Lindsay, with 52 minutes played. Further changes saw Nick Robinson and Tom Palmer take the places of Stephen Jones and Marco Wentzel.
Saracens threatened a try, after a strong run by replacement centre Duncan Taylor, which took play deep into the Wasps 22. Play was moved back out to the right, and Mako Vunipola had another scoring chance, but knocked on, with the line at his mercy. The referee had been playing advantage, and took play back, giving Farrell the chance to narrow the gap to two points, with a straightforward kick.
A storming run by Will Fraser then opened up the Wasps defence and threatened a try. Surge after surge for the line was repelled, and Saracens were finally forced into touch at the corner. It was a brief respite, as Saracens won a lineout a few metres outside the Wasps 22. The ball was moved out to the right and Alex Goode sent a chip towards the corner. The ball seemed about to go out, but the bounce beat the defence and Chris Ashton gathered to go over in the corner. Farrell missed the conversion, but the visitors were now leading, with 14 minutes to go.
Saracens now stepped up the pace, and Charlie Hodgson produced a defence-splitting break, which took play up to the Wasps line. As the ball emerged, Zak Taulafo interfered with scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth and was shown a yellow card. Farrell landed the simple penalty, to stretch the lead to 19-13.
With four minutes left, Saracens had a great chance to make the game safe, but Rhys Gill knocked on, a metre from the line. At the resultant scrum, the Wasps pack was penalised and Farrell’s simple penalty put the visitors nine points ahead, denying Wasps a bonus point.
Wasps return to Adams Park next Friday evening, for their Amlin Challenge Cup quarterfinal against three-times European champions Leinster.
To secure your place call 0844 225 2990 or book online here.
Wasps team:15 Elliot Daly, 14 Christian Wade 13 Andrea Masi 11 Tom Varndell 10 Stephen Jones 9 Joe Simpson 1 Zak Taulafo 2 Tom Lindsay 3 Phil Swainston 4 Joe Launchbury 5 Marco Wentzel (capt.) 6 Ashley Johnson 7 Sam Jones 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements:16 T. Rhys Thomas 17 Tim Payne 18 Will Taylor 19 Tom Palmer 20 Jonathan Poff 21 Charlie Davies 22 Nick Robinson 23 Hugo Southwell
Saracens:15 Alex Goode 14 Chris Ashton 13 Joel Tompkins 12 Owen Farrell 11 Chris Wyles 10 Charlie Hodgson 9 Neil De Kock 1 Mako Vunipola 2 John Smit 3 Petrus Du Plessis 4 Steve Borthwick (capt.) 5 Mouritz Botha 6 Jackson Wray 7 Will Fraser 8 Ernst Joubert
Replacements:16 Jamie George 17 Rhys Gill 18 Carlos Nieto 19 George Kruis 20 Jacques Burger 21 Richard Wigglesworth 22 Duncan Taylor 23 James Short