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Wasps two tries to one win was deserved, though start of the season errors meant they squandered chances to record a convincing win. Fly half Dave Walder, a late replacement for Alex King who withdrew with a calf strain, marked his Premiership debut with a performance that grew in confidence, and it was his two penalties at the start of the last quarter, followed by some assured tactical kicking that took Wasps ahead and ensured they stayed there until the final whistle.
It took Walder a while to find his range in difficult conditions however, missing his first two penalty attempts as a strong wind blowing down in from the south stand building works made conditions tricky for place kicking.
Things were looking ominous for the pessimistic supporter after just 6 minutes, as Walder had missed his first attempt and the physios were in overdrive. Fraser Waters had made headway after picking his line well off fellow centre Rob Hoadley, and quick ball allowed Paul Sackey to threaten the line, though he was hauled down short. Both Sackey and Waters required attention, and though Sackey was able to play on, Waters was forced from the pitch with a shoulder injury that makes him doubtful for Friday's game against London Irish.
However, the optimists in the crowd soon had something to shout about. Ayoola Erinle was on for Waters, and off first phase ball, with his first touch of the ball, he blasted through the tackles of Saracens scrum half Alan Dickens and flanker David Seymour to open the scoring.
Saracens hit back just minutes later however, centre Ben Johnston barging through Walder's tackle to touchdown. Glen Jackson's conversion evened the scores at 7 all after 12 minutes.
I thought the pack were outstanding and they gave us the platform to control the game - McGeechan
The game had sparked into life, and Wasps were starting to make an impact at set piece. Tim Payne was getting the better of Cobus Visagie as the big Saracens pack got shunted around at scrum time, whilst Tom Palmer was making his presence felt as Wasps met with similar success in the line out. Despite this, it was Saracens who went ahead though, Jackson nailing a difficult penalty from half way. Walder missed his second penalty attempt shortly after, but was on target in the 21st minute to bring Wasps level again at 10-10.
As was to be expected, some new season rustiness was in evidence. Palmer's line out steal gave Paul Sackey a platform to weave through Saracens back-pedalling defence as the second quarter unfolded, but Wasps missed a huge blind side opportunity as the ball was re-cycled. Minutes later they coughed up turnover ball that allowed Richard Haughton to launch a dangerous attack, testing the Wasps defence, and infringement at the breakdown allowed Jackson to kick his third penalty of the day and put his side 13-10 ahead on the half hour.
However, Saracens were a man down after prop Kevin Yates had been shown the yellow card for stamping on Simon Amor, and their penalty count was on a rapid rise as referee Roy Maybank gave several warnings to captain Simon Raiwalui for killing the ball at the breakdown. Wasps made the man advantage count, Palmer scoring on his Premiership debut from a line out catch and drive to edge Wasps ahead 13-15, and it looked as though McGeechan's men would go in ahead at half time. However, No8 Dan Leo was sin binned for a dangerous challenge on Haughton as the half came to an end, and Jackson made no mistake with a fourth penalty in injury time to see his side turn around 16-15 ahead.
Wasps midfield had an unfamiliar look at the start of the second half, Jeremy Staunton coming on at inside centre to replace Rob Hoadley, and Saracens began the half brightly. Jackson mixed up play and capitalised on the pressure he created to kick his side further ahead, but as handling errors were creeping in on both sides, Saracens could not take their opportunities.
Under pressure Wasps handling became sloppy, and they were unable to build any momentum as a result. Despite this Josh Lewsey, playing on the left wing, kick-started some good attacks with quick line outs as he looked to up the intensity. Saracens big pack were starting to show signs of tiring, and with Lewsey putting his team on the front foot, the opposition conceded two penalties in quick succession and Walder, with the wind at his back, made no mistake.
His tactical kicking kept Saracens in their own half for much of the rest of the match, and though Wasps had some good opportunities, notably Simon Shaw's charge for the corner with ten minutes to go, their attacking lacked patience and with no further score, Wasps clinched their win, 19-21 at full time.
After the game, Ian McGeechan said, 'A lot of credit goes to the pack today. I thought they were outstanding and they gave us the platform to control the game, particularly in the last 20 minutes when it was important we maintained field position.
'We scored two good tries but I think both teams suffered from first-game-of-the-season syndrome. There's always going to be mistakes because you are playing at an intensity that you don't get in preseason, so you do get errors, and we weren't as patient as we could have been when we were in good positions. We did rush things inside their 22 sometimes and I felt we could have been out of sight. Having said that though, Saracens played well and gave us enough of a problem.'
On the performance of debutante Dave Walder, McGeechan said, 'I think the forwards would have enjoyed playing with Dave today, as he put them in the right places. He's worked hard on his game since he's come to us and with the injury situation we have at fly half, him coming through has been a bonus. When you just need pressure off, that's what he does well.'
Walder enjoyed his first run out in black and gold, saying, 'It's important to get off to a good start, as we did today. It was a real high for me to pull on a Wasps shirt for the first time and look around the changing room at the players alongside me, and the forwards played amazingly well, which made my life pretty easy.'
Referee: Roy Maybank