Wasps secure home semi-final in thrilling win over Saracens

A season’s best attendance of 30,115 saw Wasps round off the regular season with a magnificent victory to secure first place in the Premiership.

35 - 15
Wasps Saracens

Sat 6th May 2017
4:00 pm

Ricoh Arena Stadium Aviva Premiership Highlights As it happened
On their way to victory, they broke a 19-year Premiership try-scoring record and Christian Wade equalled the individual record for a season also set 19 years ago. They will now play Leicester Tigers in their first home play-off since 2008. Exeter’s bonus point win at Gloucester gave them a second successive second place finish and they will take on Saracens at Sandy Park in the other semi-final.

Wasps began with a ferocious assault launched by a bulldozing run down the middle by Jake Cooper-Woolley. Several phases later, Kurtley Beale’s angled run took him through the first line of defence and into the 22, but the attack was eventually halted by a Wasps knock-on at the breakdown just in front of the posts. A free-kick was then conceded at the scrum and Saracens cleared to the 10-metre line.

Eight minutes into the game, the crowd joined in a sustained round of applause and standing ovation in support of former Wasps number 8 Ed Jackson, who is recovering from a serious injury sustained in a swimming-pool accident. With the applause still ringing around the stadium, an incisive run by Willie Le Roux stretched the Saracens defence. The ball found Thomas Young out wide on the left, but he was adjudged to have put a foot in touch before passing inside to the supporting Elliot Daly.

After 15 minutes, Jimmy Gopperth made ground down the left before chipping infield and Chris Wyles fumbled the awkwardly bouncing ball to give Wasps a scrum 35 metres out, almost in the middle of the field. The front rows went down and Wasps were awarded the penalty. Jimmy Gopperth sent the ball between the posts to open the score. The lead lasted just over a minute, as Ben Spencer pounced on a loose ball at a breakdown on the 22 to race over between the posts. Alex Lozowski converted to make the score 7-3 to the visitors. Before the restart, Wasps were forced into a substitution as Tommy Taylor was helped from the field with Ashley Johnson taking his place.

Wasps regained the lead two minutes later following a superb pick-up by Kurtley Beale. Danny Cipriani threaded a delicate chip behind the defence and it bounced perfectly for Thomas Young, who went over in the left corner. The try brought Wasps’ total for the season to 85 to draw level with the Premiership record for a 22-game season, set by Newcastle in 1997/8. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion attempt went narrowly wide and another enforced  Wasps replacement then brought Phil Swainston on in place of Jake Cooper-Woolley.

With ten minutes left before the break, a lengthy period of Saracens pressure and tenacious Wasps defence ended with Alex Lozowski’s 30-metre drop at goal sailing wide. A minute later,  Saracens won a penalty on halfway and Marcelo Bosch landed a monster kick to put the visitors 10-8 ahead.

Six minutes before half-time, Willie Le Roux produced a superb offload after gathering a high kick to send Kurtley Beale away with space out on the right. He fed Christian Wade who chipped ahead and was then taken out off the ball by Sean Maitland. Maitland was shown a yellow card and Jimmy Gopperth’s 35-metre kick put Wasps back in front by 11-10.

A minute later with referee Wayne Barnes playing advantage for a Wasps penalty, Joe Simpson chipped ahead and a strong chase pressured Nick Tompkins into knocking on into touch in goal. Wasps went for the scrum, rather than the penalty. They moved infield before Willie Le Roux’s long pass sent Thomas Young in for his second try to set a new Premiership record. Jimmy Gopperth was again unable to land the conversion and Wasps went into the break 16-10 to the good, after an action-packed half of rugby.

After a Saracens attack broke down in the opening minute of the second half, Kurtley Beale sent a huge kick downfield into the visitors’ 22. The clearance was gathered by Joe Simpson who launched a counterattack and Wasps came close to a third try before knocking on near the right corner.

Wasps were soon back on the attack after Ashley Johnson burst off a driving line out to release a deft offload and set the backs moving. A kick ahead went into touch near the right corner. Willie Le Roux then sent Elliot Daly away down the left and the Lions centre seemed certain to score after cutting infield, but the defence brought him down a few metres short of the line.

After 53 minutes, Jimmy Gopperth missed a chance to stretch the lead to nine points when he pulled a 48-metre penalty to the left of the posts.

Dan Robson replaced Joe Simpson and immediately set Wasps hearts pounding, when Jim Hamilton charged down his box kick and hacked deep into the 22. Kurtley Beale was back to cover and Robson made no mistake with his clearance to find touch on the 10-metre line.

On 59 minutes, Wasps stretched their lead after a chip to the corner was not gathered by the defence. It bounced off a Saracens leg and Christian Wade gathered to dot down for his easiest try of the season to equal Dominic Chapman’s 19-year Premiership record. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion put Wasps 23-10 ahead.

A minute later,  Wade pulled off a try-saving tackle when he took George Kruis head-on a few metres from the line. Saracens kept the ball alive and finally forced their way over when Ben Spencer crossed for his second try. Alex Lozowski missed the conversion leaving Wasps eight points ahead with sixteen minutes left to play.

Several minutes of Saracens pressure were lifted when the ball went loose near the Wasps line. A long kick took Wasps deep into the 22 and they then seemed certain to score, but Dan Robson somehow failed to gather and go over.

Nine minutes from time, the stadium erupted as Wasps gathered a loose ball and Elliot Daly was sent racing clear down the left to secure the bonus point. Another Gopperth conversion stretched the lead to 30-15 and Wasps were within sight of a home semi-final. They set the seal on a memorable victory when Thomas Young stole round the blindside to complete a hat-trick and be named MOTM with a try in the right corner. Jimmy Gopperth’s kick went wide, but Wasps played out the closing seconds and Danny Cipriani’s kick into row Z sparked ecstatic scenes of celebration.

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Jake Cooper-Woolley
  4. Joe Launchbury
  5. Matt Symons
  6. James Haskell
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Joe Simpson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Willie Le Roux
  12. Jimmy Gopperth
  13. Elliot Daly
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Kurtley Beale
  16. Ashley Johnson
  17. Simon McIntyre
  18. Phil Swainston
  19. Kearnan Myall
  20. Guy Thompson
  21. Dan Robson
  22. Alapati Leiua
  23. Josh Bassett

Saracens Line ups

  1. Titi Lamositele
  2. Schalk Brits
  3. Vincent Koch
  4. Jim Hamilton
  5. George Kruis
  6. Michael Rhodes
  7. Jackson Wray
  8. Schalk Burger
  9. Ben Spencer
  10. Alex Lozowski
  11. Sean Maitland
  12. Nick Tompkins
  13. Marcelo Bosch
  14. Michael Ellery
  15. Chris Wyles
  16. Jamie George
  17. Richard Barrington
  18. Petrus Du Plessis
  19. Nick Isiekwe
  20. Kelly Brown
  21. Henry Taylor
  22. Alex Goode
  23. Nathan Earle