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London Wasps recorded a hard-fought 16-9 victory over the Northampton Saints on Sunday. It was Wasps’s third win on the trot and the fourth in five games.
With the game delayed by 15 minutes due to a railway problem to High Wycombe, the team had to fight hard and dig deep for the win.
First blood went to Saints with a penalty from flyhalf Paul Grayson in the 2nd minute. Alex King evened the scores minutes later and with the rain pelting down, the first quarter began to get scrappy. Knock-on’s and wayward passes were seen from both sides and when Wasps were penalised by referee Roy Maybank for handling the ball on the ground, Grayson was on hand to slot his second penalty.
The score of 3-6 stayed the same for the remainder of the first half until the 37th minute when the now reliable try-scoring method of converting the lineout into a rolling maul worked its charm again for Wasps. Trevor Leota peeled off the maul to score the games only try. King converted and Wasps went into half-time 10-6 ahead. <1>
King got the second half into motion with a penalty in the 42nd minute to extend the lead to 13-6 and Wasps started to look the better side for the win. Things got better for The Men in Black when Saints were reduced to 14 men when Maybank issued a yellow card to Matt Stewart. But that joy was short lived as Maybank evened things out by sending lock Simon Shaw to the sin-bin for tripping Matt Dawson.
Minutes later Grayson closed the gap to 13-9 and the 9400 crowd were waiting for something special to happen. Unfortunately that never happened as the defence from both sides was excellent and it was only a last minute drop-goal from King that brought a sigh of relief to Wasps fans. King, who had an early drop goal attempt charged down, calmly slotted the ball between the uprights and sealed the 16-9 win.
Even though the game was scrappy it was very physical. Warren Gatland said, “ We have been very physical in our last five games and Stade Francais said that we were the most physical team that they have come across and I’d like to think that Northampton went away with a few bumps and bruises today. <2>
With Wasps giving out the bumps and bruises captain Lawrence Dallaglio had to deal with his own as he fell heavily on his shoulder, but early indications suggest that it’s not too serious from a Wasps and England perspective. Peter Scrivener did however have to replace Dallaglio in the final ten minutes
Dallaglio speaking about the shoulder said, “ I will see how it feels this week and if I’m fully fit I will play against London Irish. I fell heavily on it and that caused some slight movement to the shoulder blade but I’m not too worried about it.
Asked how he felt about the game he said, I was delighted with the result today; the result was paramount rather than the performance. We have been a bit disjointed this week as we never had a game last weekend and today we were a bit rusty. The character of the team pulled us through today. The last five weeks have been very tough. We’ve had Gloucester, Leicester, Stade Francais home and away and now Northampton and to me that is playing against four of the top teams in Europe. To come away with four wins and a narrow defeat at Kingsholm, suggest that we are making strides in the right direction.
This win keeps London Wasps in the hunt for a playoff place and with an Irish visit next weekend, Gatland and the team will want to keep the Wasps eyes, and not the Irish, smiling.