To book tickets for this game please telephone Saracens directly on 01923 475222
Two weeks ago, against the Newcastle Falcons, many rugby fans could be forgiven for leaving Adams Park early. Not for the huge crowds but rather for the dullness on the excitement scale. Sunday’s game at Vicarage Road was the complete opposite. Nine tries in all and three coming from lock, Simon Shaw, saw London Wasps complete the ‘double’ over neighbours Saracens, winning 31-42.
While the Falcons game never got going, this game was on fast forward mode from the first whistle. Wasps expected a fight from Sarries but nothing like what happened within the first ten minutes. Two tries, one from Richard Hill, the other from Tim Horan and conversions from Nicky Little, allowed Sarries the streak ahead 14-0. It was like a boxing match with Saracens looking for the knockout in the first round.
Wasps needed composure and that came from the boot of Alex King. His penalty in the 12th minute slowed things down and no sooner had the score gone up on the scoreboard, Wasps hit again, courtesy of Simon Shaw. The big England international popped up on the wing, unmarked, and crossed for his, and Wasps’ first try of the afternoon. King converted, and then added another penalty moments later that restored the deficit to only one point, as Wasps trailed 14-13.
Most teams could have panicked going two goals down very early on, but the ‘REAL’ Men in Black know where they are going, what the goals are, and how to get there.
That ‘how to get there’ was lead by Shaw who once again found himself on the receiving end of the final pass and scored his, and Wasps’ second try of the day. Even with King missing the conversion, the try enabled Warren Gatland’s side to take the lead for the first time in the game, a lead that they would never relinquish.
However, Little scored his first penalty of the afternoon in the 37th minute and brought Sarries up to 17-18.
If anyone was hungry to get on the field today, it was Andy Kershaw. The ginger haired prop was on loan to Sarries for the first few months of the league and was eager to get stuck in his former teammates. Kershaw was looking to impress with the absence of Will Green and he did. His persistence in going forward was rewarded with a try just before half-time. It was Wasps’ third of the afternoon and as King added the extra two points, Lawrence Dallaglio, lead his side off 17-25 ahead.
Asked what his thoughts were on the first half, Warren Gatland said, “I was happy with the way we started. I thought we played some positive rugby and their tries were scored from turnovers where they capitalised on our mistakes. A lot of teams would probably have their heads down at this stage and given it away, but we hung in there and clawed our way back into the game, and went ahead to find ourselves in front at halftime. I said to the boys that if we keep our composure and not give too much away we would win the game reasonably comfortably.
Saracens coach, Wayne Shelford, must have asked his players to rise to the occasion and show their true international colours during the second half, as his prayers were answered when Thomas Castaignede stepped up to the plate and scored a remarkable try. For the rugby neutral it was a mixture of French flair and individual brilliance. The little Frenchman colleted a pass from Nicky Little, found a gap, chipped the ball over the head of fullback Mark Van Gisbergen, collected and scored his sides third try. Little converted and the Watford based side closed the gap to 24-25.
However, for every Sarries point, Wasps had an answer. King was on-song with his kicking boots and landed his third penalty in the 50th minute to stretch the lead to 24-28.
Moments later flanker, Paul Volley, joined his fellow forwards by getting on the score sheet with the now regulation lineout into a rolling maul try. His five points brought up the much needed bonus point. King added two points to extend the lead to 24-35.
Nine points up going into the last quarter it was still game on and when Saracen wing Richard Haughton scored his sides bonus point fourth try plus the Little conversion to close within four points of Wasps, it was anyone’s game. With ten minutes left, Wasps were leading 31-35 and needed the knockout punch to kill off Sarries. That punch came courtesy from Shaw. A penalty to Wasps saw King kick the ball to within five metres of the Sarries tryline. Trevor Leota, who was now on for Phil Greening, threw the ball into the lineout, Shaw colleted, swivelled around and scored his knockout, hat-trick try. King converted and The Men in Black walked away 31-42 winners and with the five league points.
Gatland added, “This game had the sort of conditions that we revel in as we have backs that can step. After 20 minutes I put a message onto the field that their forwards were ‘blowing’ &ndash meaning that they weren’t fit enough and therefore we just wanted to keep the pace of the game up. We are in good physical condition, we have some really good physical athletes and have players that love playing in these conditions.
“The destiny of where we finish is really in our own hands and we are aware of that. Saracens never gave up but at the end of the day we were just too strong for them upfront.
One will have to go back into the record books to see when last a Wasps side scored five tries, all by the forwards and three by a lock. Positives from the game were that the side never panicked, got the win with a bonus point, and came away with no major injuries. The only blemish would be conceding four tries, as Wasps defence has been top class since the beginning of the year.
The squad will be broken into three groups over the next few days. The internationals will go to their respective unions, a third of the players will be travelling to Poland for ‘freezer’ treatment in the ‘chamber’ while the rest will stay behind and work on more fitness at the club. The squad will then regroup in two weeks before taking on Bath on the 6th April, a side that Wasps have unfinished business with!