London Wasps beat Saracens 29-40 in a 6 tries to 5 rugby-fest at Vicarage Road on Sunday. The win takes Wasps to 3rd in the table, with a game in hand over the top two as play off season approaches!.
Wasps bright young talent, Dominic Waldouck secured a brace of tries at Vicarage Road
Twenty-one minutes, forty points: at 12-28 ahead, Wasps looked like they were going to run away with this match after tries for Ibanez, Voyce, Waldouck and Sackey secured Dallaglio and Co the fastest bonus point of the season against Saracens at Vicarage Road. And run away they continued to do - Waldouck's second try, on the stroke of half time, and another for Reddan five minutes after the interval opening up a healthy 12-40 lead for the visitors. But, as the rigours of three games in nine days started to take effect on Wasps, Saracens made good use of the generous levels of possession accorded them by their guests, enjoying a spirited three-try comeback in the final half hour that had Wasps supporters merely grateful at full time - despite having witnessed one of the Guinness Premiership's more heady games of the season.
There was a distinct feeling that Dallaglio and Co were clinging on at the end, and that perhaps took the shine off an overall performance that saw Wasps play some of the most exhilarating rugby of the season to date. And though Danny Cipriani will enjoy most of the headlines after having a direct hand in three of his sides five first half scores, Tom Rees was also exceptional in his workrate and skill, and Dominic Waldouck proved once again that he is coming back into the form that promises him a bright, and surely international future, as he bagged two of the first half tries.
Tom Rees has made a strong return from injury to play a crucial part in Wasps most recent crucial Premiership games
The win, Wasps eighth successive league victory since January, puts them up to third in the Guinness Premiership table, above Harlequins on points difference and still with a game in hand over the top two.
However, Wasps first half romp belied the fact that it was Saracens who were off the mark first, Richard Haughton putting Fransico Leonelli away in just the third minute. However, when the Saracens pack fluffed the kick off reception at the restart, Rees was on hand to flip up the loose ball for hooker Raphael Ibanez to bustle over the line near the posts and draw things level.
Parity did not last. Sackey came close with Wasps first attack and as Saracens, recovering possession behind their own line, tried to move the ball away from trouble Tom Voyce was quick to pounce on Adam Powell's misdirected pass and dot down Wasps simple second.
Having scored twice from their hosts mistakes, it was now time for Wasps to create something of their own. Cue Cipriani, who for the next half hour gave a masterclass in the art of fly halvery. He dummied, floated and fired passes across his midfield. Little inside balls kept the Saracens defence honest, and a pin point cross-field kick to Sackey, in acres of space, who then scored the bonus point try, showed off both Cipriani's footballing skills and game awareness.
Orchestrating the backs and powerless with the boot, Cipriani helped ensure victory for Wasps
Either side of the Sackey score, Cipriani showed immaculate timing to delay, dummy and draw his man, furnishing Waldouck with his two tries before half time. The first Cipriani casualty was centre Kevin Sorrell, who bought a dummy as the fly half attacked the blind side, giving him space to zip a flat pass to the oncoming Waldouck for a score in the corner. The second was Richard Haughton. Wasps' forwards provided the platform and with front foot advantage, Cipriani stepped on the gas to get half way around Haughton ' no slouch himself ' before flipping ball out of contact for the supporting Waldouck to score.
Five tries by half-time, and five conversions added, as Cipriani's immaculate boot gave marked contrast to the scruffy kicking display of his opposite number Glen Jackson, whose three missed conversions plus an unsuccessful penalty prevented Saracens from staging a much more dramatic comeback in the latter stages.
But as the second half kicked off, it was Wasps who were to score their sixth before the Sarries renaissance began. With Rees once again to the fore at the breakdown, Wasps forced a turnover and Reddan saw a gap around the fringes, dummying flanker Paul Gustard before racing 40 metres on his own. It was to be Wasps last try of the day however as Alan Gaffney's men, kitted out in pink for this game to promote Breast Cancer Awareness weekend, sought to escape any further blushes by mounting a strong comeback.
With Wasps handing over far too much possession, Dallaglio and Co remained on the back foot for much of the rest of the game. Patience and an excellent build up allowed winger Leonelli to complete his hat-trick with a well worked try, and as the home side again pressed into the Wasps 22, replacement flanker James Haskell stuck his hands into the ruck and with one his first touches of the game earned himself ten minutes in the cooler and Saracens a man advantage. They took it well, pulling Wasps from side to side to create the space for full back Haughton to go over in the right corner and pull his side back to 22-40 on the hour.
Captain Dallaglio leads from the front
Though still in possession of a generous 18 point buffer, the complete lack of ball was beginning to sound alarm bells in the Wasps camp. Still a man down, they dug in and defended with cool heads and tenacity to weather the storm of the next seven minutes with out Haskell. Cipriani, drilling his clearance kicks an excellent distance, gave Wasps some relief, but just when they looked to be getting a fingerhold back in the game, mistakes in their own 22 allowed Sarries scrum half Neil de Kock to roll and stutter his way to the line for a soft score.
Nine minutes to go, and Saracens were sniffing at the extraordinary possibility of a comeback, but de Kock's try had pricked Wasps to renewed determination and despite the fatigue that must have been in their legs they held on, even launching an eleventh hour attack that threatened, but ultimately did not add further points to the scoreboard.
The game ended with uncontested scrums as Tom French, an early replacement for Pat Barnard, followed his front row colleague to the dressing rooms with a sore neck five minutes from time. Barnard's injury, a lower leg problem, forced him to retire just five minutes after kick off, and with Phil Vickery also out injured for the rest of the season, Wasps' remaining front row personnel will have a busy time of it in the coming weeks. However in Tim Payne, who ran out for his 100th Premiership game at Vicarage Road, Wasps have a solid anchor on which to build their scrum, and the prop showed again yesterday why he too will is pressing hard for a place on England's summer tour to New Zealand.
Indeed, watched as it was by England's coaches John Wells and Mike Ford, this game was an ideal opportunity for players to showcase their wares. And as they did, the records tumbled. Whilst Payne recorded his 100th league game, Simon Shaw went into the record books for his 197th, one ahead of Saracens' Kris Chesney and topping the Premiership all time appearances table.
Tom Voyce celebrates his score - one of Wasps six tries of the afternoon
Tom Voyce's score took him into fifth place in the Premiership all time try scoring table with 53 tries, one ahead of team mate Josh Lewsey but still behind Paul Sackey, now on 63, and leader Steve Hanley on 75.
Victory over Saracens stretches Wasps winning streak to eight in succession, this season's best in the Premiership and bettering Bath's previous 2007/08 best of six, recorded before Christmas. It's Wasps best league run since 2004/05, when they put together a run of seven straight wins between September and November, but does not better the run of 11 successive wins recorded in Wasps double winning season of 2003/04.
McGeechan's men have now collected 36 of a possible 40 points since losing to Gloucester in January, and only lost one of thirteen games since the World Cup final in November.
And finally, Sackey's 21st minute score gave Wasps the fastest bonus point of the 2007-08 season, beating Saracens' 28 minutes against Leeds last month. It was not Wasps fastest bonus point of all-time however, that honour going to Simon Shaw who scored Wasps fourth against Rotherham after just 20 minutes in April 2001. He, though, is some way behind Premiership fastest bonus point record holders Quins, for whom Mike Worsley notched a fourth try in just 14 minutes, against Saracens, in November 2004.
After the game, Director of Rugby Ian McGeechan said, 'It was our third of three games in nine days, so it was pleasing to have been able to start like that ' although we did concede the first try. But that was a great position to get into at half time, though it was always going to tell a bit in the second half. For our part we were careless in the second half and that, added to some indifferent decision making meant we kept giving Saracens the ball, and they kept coming back at us. We didn't do that in the first half, when we built thought the phases to get the scores.
'I thought it was an open game. and everyone here will go away thinking they've see a decent game of rugby, well refereed too.
Reflecting on the performances of Danny Cipriani and Dominic Waldouck, Shaun Edwards said, 'There no doubt that Danny's one of most exciting players in the game when he's on song. I think we've seen a good week from him all round. He controlled the game and kicked well against Sale, and he kicked very well again today. There a few rough edges to his game, but he's only 20 years of age and its up to us as his coaches to iron those rough edges out.
Edwards joked, 'I wish my rough edges were as rough as his. He's not the worst player I ever seen!' before continuing, 'People come to rugby and play their admission fee to watch players like Danny, and hopefully he's on his way to being a superstar.'
Wasps bright young talent, Dominic Waldouck secured a brace of tries at Vicarage Road
On the performance of Waldouck, McGeechan said, 'We were pretty please with Dom today. He's starting to realise his potential and if he can continue to do that consistently at club level, then you can start looking at him at international level. That's the journey he's on now. He lost a little bit of ground when he was injured earlier in the season, but he's got his head right, he knows what he has to do at Wasps. Both Shaun and I strongly believe that you get it right at Wasps first, and if you are doing that, then you shouldn't be far off England.'
Saracens coach Alan Gaffney said, of the Wasps performance: "Three o'clock to 3.40 did not exist in my world. The first 40 minutes were close to being the most embarrassing 40 minutes I've been involved in and I think the players were equally embarrassed."
And on Wasps flanker Tom Rees, who had an exceptional game, Gaffney said, "Tom Rees had an outstanding first half. He tore us apart. We could not knock him over, he was very very good."