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London Wasps snatched a dramatic one point victory over Saracens at Adams Park this afternoon thanks to a 78th minute try from Man of the Match Eoin Reddan.
After trailing 13 -26, Reddan's two tries in the last ten minutes saw Wasps beat their London rivals by the narrowest of margins to the delight of an ecstatic Wasps crowd.
Thomas Castaignede's try on the stroke of half time had seen Saracens turn around ahead 6-13, despite Wasps having shown more ambition in attack having dominated possession in the first half.
The 6-6 scoreline in the 39th minute belied an entertaining first half that saw the big hits going in from the start, Andy Farrell and Tom Rees hitting hard in defence, whilst James Haskell featured strongly in Wasps attack from the outset. His turnover and subsequent break put the necessary pressure on Saracens to concede the first penalty, which Dave Walder duly slotted in the 13th minute, and Haskell was again to the fore, this time with Dominic Waldouck as Wasps attacked strongly from the restart to win another penalty, Walder giving Wasps a 6-0 lead after a quarter of an hour.
Wasps were attacking from all over the park, and a beautiful little offload from Tom Palmer to Tom Voyce allowed the backs go close in the corner shortly after. Saracen showed how dangerous they were on the counter attack though, attacking out of that corner and only Fraser Waters last ditch tackle on Rodd Penney preventing Saracens scoring the first try, Waters also winning a penalty for the home side in the process.However, Saracens turned defence into attack again as Tom Rees, recovering after chasing Dave Walder's threatening chip through, missed a tackle on Saracens slippery French full back Thomas Casteignede that allowed the visitors to pile into Wasps 22. Simon Shaw's off side offence was lucky not to earn him a yellow card, and Jackson's kick got Saracens back to 6-3 after 26 minutes.
Saracens defence were proving their worth as Wasps mounted another sweeping attack on the half hour, with Walder, Cipriani and Lewsey all involved, and it was an tough decision against Lewsey, under the high ball, that allowed Jackson to draw his side level with his second penalty five minutes from half time.
Then, with seconds left on the clock Jackson launched a perfectly weighted cross field kick from behind his scrum that Fijian winger Kameli Ratuvou collected on the full without breaking stride. Streaking into Wasps 22 Ratuvou comitted Lewsey with his wide run and slid a pass in field to the supporting Castaignede, the Frenchman showing Danny Cipriani a clean pair of heals to score with the last action of the half as Jackson slotted the conversion to take his side in leading 6-13.
Perhaps frustrated by the poor return for their efforts in the first half, Wasps started the second half poorly and Jackson's third penalty quickly extended Saracens lead. Then, a mistake in Wasps midfield allowed the visitors to attack in Wasps own half, and Farrell's scrambled pass saw giant prop Cencus Johnston juggle with the ball as he pounded to the try line, finally bouncing off Cipriani to score and give his side a 6-21 lead with half an hour remaining.
However, this was a must win game for Wasps if they were to keep their hopes of a play off place alive, and they were not about to give in just yet. Phil Vickery joined Lawrence Dallaglio in leading from the front, taking a quick free kick and setting up a good attacking platform for his team, the forwards battering up centre field before Reddan passed wide to Waldouck, who found Cipriani out on the touchline with just enough space to squeeze over in the corner.
Walder's conversion narrowed Saracens lead to 8, but the visitors hit back immediately, and simple wide move allowing centre Penney to drift though and score increasing the gap between the teams to 13, though Jackson again couldn't add the extras.
Saracens defence was still determined and organised, but they were starting to tire, and as the coaches put on fresh legs, McGeechan's were patient but uncowed as they began on a dramatic final ten minutes and a memorable comeback.
Gambling on all their attacking options, Ayoola Erinle and Mark van Gisbergen came on, Van Gisbergen going to full back as Cipriani moved up to fly half when Walder and Waters were replaced, whilst John Hart, Nick Adams and Richard Birkett provided the fresh legs up front.
Reddan's first try came from a huge Wasps driving maul following a line out. As the maul collapsed James Haskell took the ball on, Cipriani and Waldouck rucking over to prevent him getting isolated and with the resultant quick ball Reddan spotted a gap round the fringe and darted for the line.
Van Gisbergen's conversion clawed his team back to 20 -26 and Wasps were throwing everything at the London rivals with less than ten minutes remaining. Cipriani's penalty kick to the corner set up a great attacking position for Wasps, and a sweeping move right once again threatened to overstretch the visitors' defence, but as Joe Ward ran onto the ball at pace it cannoned off his knee and the attack petered out.It could have been Wasps last chance, but no one on this team was about to give up and, awarded a scrum with an inviting blind side 20 metres from the line, Reddan took advantage, arcing round unchallenged to touch down with just one minute left on the clock.
At 25-26 Van Gisbergen was faced with a tricky conversion, just five metres in from touch, but his seemed to be the coolest head on the park as he bisected the posts perfectly to put his side one point ahead with 20 seconds remaining.
Jackson's quick restart was high and plum on the ten, and Saracens, not without fight of their own remaining, stole back possession. Jackson dropped into the pocket and attempted a long drop goal from 40 metres out. Hearts were in mouths, as it was on target. But it fell just short, allowing Danny Cipriani to kick the ball upfield and into touch. Though Saracens had time for one last lineout, taking is quickly replacement hooker Matt Cairns threw in not straight, and with no time to reset the line referee Sean Davey blew for time to the rapture of Wasps players and supporters.
Elated captain Lawrence Dallaglio said, 'Saracens obviously the form team in the Premiership, and a much tougher side under Alan Gaffney then they ever have been in the past, so we went at them at pace and really started the game well. Unfortunately we were just a whisker away from opening them up in the first half, and could have been 2-3 scores in front, but their very well taken try just before half time put them ahead.
'We had a weak period just after that, but the will to win and the never say die attitude of out players was outstanding. This was a massive test of the squad's emotional and physical resources after a huge battle last week, and I thought we came through it admirably.
We got caught on the back foot in the second half, and they got in behind us and took their tries very well. We will be disappointed with the way we defended to give away those tries but the way we came back was fantastic.
'Eoin Reddan was outstanding today, and on top of scoring two brilliant tries last week he's got to be putting some serous pressure on the likes of Peter Stringer and Isaac Boss for the Ireland spot.'
Reflecting on Wasps chances of making the play off's, Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said, 'All we can do now is keep winning. We're still there and in still in the mix. We know we've got to win every game from hereon in to stay in both competitions.
'The players were a bit frustrated at half time because we knew we'd played well, but we needed a bit more composure in their 22 as we were just trying to force it that but too much. Unfortunately we lost momentum in that first ten minutes of the second half, but for the last fifteen minutes I thought we were superb. We put just about our most attacking side out on the field, and I though the players showed how much they wanted it.'