Wasps back up home win with another on the road

A third successive win at Franklin’s Gardens confirmed that Wasps are now back on track. Five points ahead at the break, they took control of the game with three second-half tries to secure a hugely satisfying bonus point, sealed by Juan de Jongh’s first try in black and gold.

Playing into a strong breeze, Northampton applied the early pressure with a steady build-up ending with a pass failing to go to hand near the left corner. Wasps took a quick lineout and the ball found Josh Bassett, who took play up towards halfway. A penalty ensued and Wasps went to the corner. They failed to secure the lineout but Northampton knocked on, giving Wasps a scrum on the 22. The home side was penalised and Jimmy Gopperth’s kick opened the scoring after eight minutes.

Two minutes later, Thomas Young was penalised at the breakdown, just outside the Wasps 22 and Piers Francis had a straightforward kick to level things at 3-3. Within a couple of minutes, Tom Wood conceded a breakdown penalty in almost the same position from which Jimmy Gopperth had landed his first successful kick. The fly half was again on target to put Wasps back ahead after 14 minutes of play.

With Northampton going through the phases well, they were moving ominously towards the 22 before Guy Thompson stole a turnover, but the ball was then knocked on. Northampton won the scrum but lost possession as they tried to move the ball along the backs. Willie Le Roux’s clearance didn’t find touch and Ben Foden gathered, before slipping a tackle to break clear down the right. He found Ahsee Tuala in support and the fullback went over in the corner. The TMO was consulted over possible obstruction on James Haskell in the build-up, but the try stood. Francis missed the conversion, leaving the home side 8-6 up as the game entered the second quarter.

A promising Wasps attack saw Elliot Daly’s long pass find Christian Wade out  on the right. He offloaded neatly to Willie Le Roux, whose chip into the 22 was gathered and cleared. A powerful Guy Thompson charge took Wasps back into the 22. Matt Mullan made a few extra metres and a penalty followed, 30 metres out, just to the left of the posts. Jimmy Gopperth’s third successful kick put Wasps back in front on 28 minutes.

After another Northampton attack was stopped by a Christian Wade interception, Wasps launched a stunning move from near their own line. A searing burst by Elliot Daly took play over halfway. Juan de Jongh and Dan Robson were in support, but the final pass went to ground and Ahsee Tuala burst through a gap. He passed to Nafi Tuitavake, who was tackled by Jimmy Gopperth. Joe Launchbury won the turnover and a kick towards the corner found acres of space, with Christian Wade in chase. He had all the time in the world to gather and stroll over for a try, his 72nd in the Premiership. To the surprise of all in the ground, he then added the conversion with a drop kick. Northampton responded immediately, with another Francis penalty, to make the score 16-11 five minutes before the break.

Wasps came straight back, with Jimmy Gopperth breaking out of his own 22 after gathering a long kick. He found Thomas Young in support and with the referee playing advantage for a high tackle just outside the Northampton 22, Wasps moved the ball out to the left where Josh Bassett was unmarked. After a neat flick from Willie Le Roux, Jake  Cooper-Woolley’s pass to the winger was adjudged to have been deliberately knocked on by Ben Foden, who was shown a yellow card, but a penalty try was not awarded.

Wasps went for the corner and won another penalty.  They then won the lineout and Dan Robson stole around the blind side to dart over the line, only for the officials to rule that he had stepped into touch. TV replays showed there was no such infringement and that the try should have been awarded. Instead, Wasps then conceded a penalty and the half-time whistle went, with Dai Young’s side 16-11 ahead.

Wasps made a change at the start of the second half, with Rob Miller replacing Elliot Daly who had picked up a knee injury. It was Wasps who struck the first blow of the half, after spinning the ball out wide at every opportunity. A storming charge by Guy Thompson almost created a try for Jake  Cooper-Woolley, near the right corner. When the ball was moved back out to the left,  Willie Le Roux’s long pass found Ashley Johnson who went over for a magnificent try. Jimmy Gopperth’s low-trajectory conversion attempt went wide.

Another Wasps replacement came on 53 minutes, when Simon McIntyre came on for Matt Mullan who appeared to have suffered a shoulder or arm injury. Within a minute of the change, Wasps were penalised for a high tackle and Piers Francis was on target, from 30 metres, to bring his side to within seven points with 25 minutes still to play.

Wasps created an opportunity when Willie Le Roux combined with Josh Bassett, down the left. The fullback looped outside Bassett, but his pass fell behind his teammate. A  minute later, a 45-metre Francis penalty cut the Wasps to four points at 21-17.

Wasps produced the perfect response, after good work by Guy Thompson down the right. The ball was moved back across the field and Joe Launchbury appeared in the line to feed Josh Bassett, who cut inside the tackle to go over for a fine try. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion took Wasps to a 28-17 lead after 61 minutes.

A huge clearance by Willie Le Roux gave Wasps a lineout on the Northampton 22 after Harry Mallinder could only slice his kick into touch. The defence was again stretched and a penalty was conceded in front of the posts. Jimmy Gopperth’s kick was a formality and Wasps were now 14 points clear with 14 minutes to play.

Wasps were now playing with enormous confidence and they set the seal on a magnificent victory, when Juan de Jong finished off a flowing move for his first try for Wasps. Jimmy Gopperth converted from in front of the posts, putting Wasps out of sight at 38-17.

Harry Mallinder produced a blistering burst of speed for a consolation score, three minutes from time, but the final score was a resounding 38-22 win for Wasps.