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A three try surge at the start of the second half was just about enough to see Wasps through against Northampton Saints at Adams Park this afternoon.
However, coming back from a 2 point deficit at half time to lead 29-15 within 15 minutes of the second half, Wasps then let Northampton back in the game. The visitors drew level with ten minutes remaining and Wasps had to win the match all over again - which they did with two penalties from Mark Van Gisbergen to re-cement the victory 35-29 at the final whistle.
Despite trailing at half time, Wasps had had the better of a disjointed first half, playing by far the more coherent rugby whilst Saints were unable to put together any sustained periods of pressure. However, the visitors did take advantage of Wasps' indiscipline in their own half, and that was enough to give them the lead at the break thanks to three penalties from captain Bruce Reihana and one for Carlos Spencer.
Saints lost both Spencer and prop John Brooks to injury within the first quarter of the match, and with frequent interruptions due to injury, perhaps Wasps lacked the continuity of action to build momentum.
Notwithstanding the disjointed fashion of the half however, which necessitated 10 minutes of injury time to be added, Wasps scored a scorching try and were unlucky to be denied another by the touch line.
The try came from Fraser Waters, who picked a glorious line off fly half Danny Cipriani's shoulder to score near the posts after just 7 minutes, pulling Wasps into the lead after Spencer and Reihana had kicked 6 points for Saints early on.
A second penalty for Reihana put his side ahead 7-9, but then a sweeping wide move from Wasps saw Danny Cipriani squeeze over in the corner. However, match TMO Graham Hughes ruled that as Cipriani grounded the ball, it had touched the touch line and the try was disallowed.
Another penalty for Reihana and a harsh yellow card for Josh Lewsey gave the advantage to Saints at the half way mark though, leading by two points and a man to the good as the game restarted.
Despite being that man down, Wasps scored 19 points in the next fifteen minutes to claim the important bonus point that will take them back into the play off places, though Bristol and Leicester still have a game in hand to play. The first try of the trio showcased the skills of Wasps centres Waters and Waldouck. Five minutes from the restart, Simon Shaw ripped the ball out of the fringes of a maul, where Jonny O'Connor provided the link to Joe Worsley, who bashed up midfield to suck in players. With quick ball at his disposal, Cipriani found Waters, who straightened to give Waldouck the room outside him. The teenager attracted the last wide defender before getting away a perfectly weighted offload for Paul Sackey on his inside to score. Van Gisbergen's conversion attempt then delighted supporters by bouncing through the uprights courtesy of the crossbar.
Reihana kicked his fourth penalty two minutes later, but Wasps were getting on top, and after a huge Wasps drive from a line out put pressure on Saints, Paul Diggin sliced his clearance to give Wasps another attacking position whilst Ben Cohen was shown a yellow card. Taking the penalty quickly, Wasps piled on more pressure, allowing Waldouck to charge again for the line. Tackled short he recycled quickly for fellow nineteen year old Cipriani to dummy before dashing through a gap to touchdown.
The bonus point try came just minutes later, and with no preparatory fanfare. Scrappy ball saw Pater Bracken throw out a hopeful pass to his right, Joe Worsley showing considerable skill to hold onto the ball. Hold on he did however, providing the perfect counter attacking platform for Cipriani, who moved the ball wide to his full back, Van Gisbergen passing over the top of his tackler's head to give Sackey a straight run to the line.
Now it was Northampton's turn to show their spirit and determination, hitting back straight away with a try for SKY's Man of the Match, 21 year old hooker Dylan Hartley. Diggin and replacement scrum half Johnny Howard followed this up with some good kicking to the corners that pinned Wasps back into their 22, from where the visitors mounted a charge for the line that allowed replacement back rower Christian Labitt to drive over from close range. Reihana's conversion drew the sides level at 29-29 with 13 minutes remaining.With the tension firmly back in the game Wasps were looking for points again, so Danny Cipriani had a pot at goal from the half way mark, but was off target. However, when Luke Myring's consequent 22 drop out rolled dead at the other end of the park, Wasps were back attacking territory and from a scrum won a penalty opportunity for Van Gisbergen to take Wasps ahead again.
Still not out of the comfort zone, Wasps won another penalty on the half way line which Eoin Reddan took quickly. Saints failed to retire ten metres with sufficient speed, and thus Reddan's quick thinking had won Van Gisbergen another penalty within his range, which he slotted to give Wasps a six point buffer.
It was enough, and Wasps were unable to run down the clock for an ultimately close win.
Speaking after the game, Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said - When we upped the pace we scored the points - but we made mistakes as well and defensively we were a bit ragged today. I think we knew at half time we had to try and just play a bit and again we focused the mind because we knew we couldn't give anything away and we had to be spot on to get the points on the board if we wanted them.'
Danny Cipriani's start at number 10 was described by McGeechan as very encouraging. - It's very important for us as a club to have options. I think we are building something a bit special here with the youngsters coming through and I'm really excited about the atmosphere we've got around this group of players.'