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London Wasps handed Northampton Saints an early Christmas present, sliding to a 8-6 defeat in this evening kick off at Franklins Gardens.
It was always going to be a difficult game, played as it was in foggy conditions that made it hard to see from one side of the pitch to the other, and both sides used the poor visibility to test their opponents with high balls throughout the match.
In such conditions the scoring opportunities were few and far between, but Wasps did cross the line twice. Unfortunately neither score was given by referee David Rose. The first came when a Wasps counter attack allowed Alex King to put Dominic Waldouck in space, and the centre slid over under the posts to celebrate his first Premiership start with a score. However, King's pass was forward and referee Rose rightly pulled play back for a scrum.
The second opportunity was less clear cut however. With ten minutes remaining Wasps put together probably their most threatening attack of the night, Tom Rees taking a tap penalty and providing quick ruck ball for the backs to find space up the right flank. Sackey was halted metres from the line and handed the baton to the forwards, who drove ever closer and lock Tom Palmer appeared to go over for the score. However, Rose did not agree, blowing instead for a knock on and awarding a scrum to the defending side.It was insult to injury for Wasps, who had conceded what transpired to be the only try of the game to Saints ten minutes earlier. Saints, who found most success on the evening by tucking the ball up their jumpers, were camped out on Wasps line having come out to start the second half in determined fashion. This was despite being a man down, captain Steve Thompson having been sin binned for killing the ball at the end of the first half, following Saints persistent use of this tactic throughout its latter stages.
Pinned back on their line, Wasps defended with alacrity, No8 Lawrence Dallaglio in the heart of the action, and try as they might the Midlanders could not muscle their way over. However, when Phil Vickery was yellow carded for stamping, Saints shunned the three points, and with Thomson returning to the fray opted for a scrum. From the push over, No8 Daniel Browne touched down to take his team ahead, Rose giving the try despite the scrum having wheeled more than 90 degrees.
Wasps did have several other opportunities for points, but Mark Van Gisbergen's had a wretched night with the boot. The full back had shown skill and bravery under the high ball, acquitting himself well in the murk, but from his six penalty opportunities he was on target with only two, Alex King also falling short with two drop goal attempts.
Director of Rugby, Ian McGeechan acknowledged after the game, 'It's one that's got away. There were a lot of points on offer there that we didn't take and we ended up losing a game that we could have comfortably come away from with a win.''But give credit to Northampton, they kept playing and made it tough all the way through. With the conditions as they were it was never easy, but I think we had done enough to win the game; we just didn't convert it into points. We had defended really well, created some opportunities and it seemed as though we scored a good try. If so, that would have been it, without any penalties or anything else, but the referee didn't agree and so the game is one that's got away from us.'
The result means Wasps are still looking for their first win on the road this season, though they hold on to fourth spot in the Premiership table courtesy of Bath's win over Sale at the Rec.