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Battling effort but no reward for Wasps

For the first game this season, Wasps came with nothing on a night where the home side came out on top on a scoreline of 24 points to 6.

They were still in the match at halftime, when they trailed 14-6, but the second half was all Northampton, and Wasps did well to limit them to just one more try after the break.

After an early lineout and scrum, Wasps were the first side to put together a sustained period of possession, when they took the ball through multiple phases, before finally losing control at a ruck, midway in their own half.

Northampton’s first spell of possession proved lethal. Fullback James Wilson gathered a kick ahead and launched a counterattack. He found Courtney Lawes in support, and the flanker powered through a weak tackle, to return the ball to Wilson, who had a clear run-in to the line to open the scoring, after five minutes. Stephen Myler missed the conversion. Four minutes later, the flyhalf was again off target with a 40-metre penalty, after Joe Simpson was caught in possession, from a kick ahead, and Wasps were penalised at the breakdown.
Myler had another chance, just two minutes later, from another breakdown offence, on the Wasps ten-metre line, and 16 metres in from the left touchline. This time, he made no mistake, and Saints were 8-0 up, with eleven minutes gone.

Wasps responded positively, with another sustained move in which Christian Wade had a chance to show his pace and footwork before Dylan Hartley was caught offside a few metres short of the Saints line. Nick Robinson opened the Wasps account with a tricky kick, from just a few metres in from the left touchline.

With 17 minutes gone, Wasps suffered an injury blow. Play had continued for several minutes with James Bailey on the ground being treated just outside the Wasps 22. After Tommy Bell cleared to touch, there was a lengthy break for further treatment and the winger, who was making his Wasps debut, was eventually carried off on a stretcher with an inflatable splint on his right leg . His place was taken by Elliot Daly.

Wasps immediately produced a fine passage of play with all three back row forwards featuring prominently, as they took play up into the Northampton 22 before the home side scrambled the ball into touch. Wasps won the lineout and produced an impressive drive which took play close to the line, before the maul went down and the home side were penalised. Robinson’s second successful kick narrowed the gap to 8-6 as the game entered the second quarter.

Wasps were then unable to control the restart and were forced back into their 22 where they conceded a penalty. Saints chose to go for the corner and a catch and drive of their own was threatening the Wasps line, before Dylan Hartley went to ground and Wasps were awarded a penalty, which enabled them to clear towards halfway. They were immediately penalised at the breakdown, seven metres inside their own half, and Myler landed a well-struck kick to make the score 11-6 with 14 minutes of the half to play.

A storming run by Samu Manoa then took play deep into the Wasps 22 resulting another penalty, the easiest kick of the night for Myler. He duly obliged with another three points, taking his side to a 14-6 lead.

Wasps continued to play enterprising rugby and Christian Wade produced another sumptuous piece of skill as he ran on to his own chip, to take play up towards the home 22.

With the clock at zero, Wasps were dealt another blow, after the TMO was called in to adjudicate on a suspected piece of foul play, spotted by the assistant referee. He ruled that Tim Payne was the guilty party and the prop was shown a yellow card. Myler missed the resultant penalty, from 40 metres, and the halftime score was 14-6, after 40 minutes in which Wasps had more than held their own, but in which poor discipline and one glaring defensive lapse had proved costly.

At halftime, news came through that James Bailey had suffered a broken leg. An appalling piece of luck, on his Wasps debut.

Northampton began the second half with a period of sustained pressure as they tried to make their numerical advantage tell. It took some desperate defence to keep them out, until they knocked on, just short of the line before conceding a penalty from the ensuing scrum. It was a brief respite for Wasps, as the home side continued to pile on the pressure. They eventually created an overlap out on the left, but somehow managed to lose control of the ball on the line, when they seemed certain to score.

Tim Payne returned from the sin bin, with the score unchanged, a commendable effort from Wasps.

The game then stopped for another nasty injury. This time, it was the Saints lock Christian Day, who was stretchered off. Just like Bailey, he had an inflatable splint on his right leg.
When play resumed, Northampton launched another wave of attacks and the inevitable try eventually came when James Wilson crossed for his second try of the night, after the steady build-up had created an overlap on the right.

Myler’s conversion took the score to 21-6, with 15 minutes of the half played, and Simon McIntyre then replaced Tim Payne.

Another front row replacement brought Rhys Thomas on in place of Tom Lindsay.

Further replacements brought all the remaining substitutes on, with 8 minutes left, by which time another Myler penalty had stretched the lead to 24-6.

Wasps continued to show fighting spirit, and another searing burst by Christian Wade took them deep into Saints territory, with just over 2 minutes left to play. From that position, they twice opted to kick to the corner, but they lost the final lineout, and the game ended with Saints 24-6 victors.

Wasps are back on home soil next weekend, when they take on Worcester Warriors in the Aviva Premiership, on Sunday, October the 7th.

Wasps team: Tommy Bell: Christian Wade, Chris Bell, Andrea Masi, James Bailey: Nick Robinson, Joe Simpson: Tim Payne, Tom Lindsay, Zak Taulafo, Marco Wentzel (capt.), Tom Palmer, Joe Launchbury, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola
Replacements: T Rhys Thomas, Simon McIntyre, Fabio Staibano, James Cannon, Sam Jones, Charlie Davies, Lee Thomas , Elliot Daly

Northampton: 15 James WILSON 14 Ken PISI 13 Dom WALDOUCK 12 Luther BURRELL 11 Vasily ARTEMYEV 10 Stephen MYLER 9 Lee DICKSON 1 Soane TONGA’UIHA 2 Dylan HARTLEY (capt)
3 Paul DORAN JONES 4 Samu MANOA 5 Christian DAY 6 Courtney LAWES 7 Tom WOOD 8 Rhys OAKLEY
16 Mike HAYWOOD 17 Alex WALLER 18 Brian MUJATI 19 Mark SORENSON 20 Phil DOWSON 21 Martin ROBERTS 22 Ryan LAMB 23 Tom MAY