Five-try Wasps A edged by Northampton Wanderers

Date: 30 Dec 2018

Wasps A ran in five tries but found themselves on the losing side as reigning champions Northampton Wanderers held on for a 38-36 win in the Premiership Rugby Shield at Ivor Preece Field.

In a thrilling first-half, seven tries were scored as end-to-end entertainment ensued for the final Wasps game of 2018.

Wanderers got the early breakthrough with Api Ratuniyarawa crashing over from close range before Ollie Sleightholme raced in from the 22 to give Northampton a 14-0 lead.

Gaby Lovobalavu danced over for Wasps in reply before Alex Mitchell finished off a Northampton maul. Gabriel Oghre then dotted down following Wasps pressure deep in the 22 as five tries were scored inside the opening 20 minutes.

Wanderers extended their lead with another Mitchell try before Wasps hit back with a third try when the returning Marcus Watson raced in to finish well from the 22, but a James Grayson penalty on the stroke of half-time saw Northampton lead 31-19.

A stunning team try straight after half-time saw Wasps right back in the contest after Ben Onyeama-Christie ran in from 40 metres in an almost length-of-the-field score, before Northampton converted from close range as Sleightholme got a second off the blindside of a driving maul.

Watson then crossed for his second and Umaga’s penalty set up a tense finish with just two points in it, but Wasps couldn’t quite get another score in what would’ve sealed a remarkable win - considering Northampton had a whopping 22 of their senior squad players in the 23. 

Northampton got off to a fine start when Ratuniyarawa crashed over from close range before Wasps looked threatening with ball in hand as Cameron Anderson made a surging run up field and Will Flinn evaded tacklers to make room before seeing a kick in behind go out on the full.

From the resulting lineout, a smooth Wanderers attack saw them go all the way upfield as the backline combined, with Andrew Kellaway sending Sleightholme in down the right flank from 35 metres.

Wasps hit back immediately after pressure in the away 22 as Fiji centre Lovobalavu skipped his way through defenders under the posts.

Northampton then extended their lead as they made the most of a driving maul in the corner, with scrum half Mitchell dummying to dive over.

The entertaining try-scoring mayhem continued as Wasps grabbed the game’s fifth try on 20 minutes after a pinpoint Umaga kick to the corner following a breakdown penalty, allowed the forwards to plough for the line and skipper Oghre burrowed his way over.

Both teams then had further opportunities when getting good field position in one another’s 22 but failed to make it count as the game entered a rare period of no tries. That was until seven minutes before the interval as a slick Samson Ma’asi offload found Kellaway who sent Mitchell racing away for his second try for Wanderers.

But the end-to-end entertainment resumed as Wasps mounted an attack immediately, allowing Rob Miller to send the returning Watson in for a clinical try as the winger galloped in from the 22, holding off two tacklers.

At the end of the half, Wasps were pinged at the breakdown and Northampton decided to opt for the posts for the first time in the match, and fly half Grayson delivered a perfect kick from 40 metres out to take his side in 31-19 up at the break.

Wasps came flying out the blocks with a stunning try from their own 22 as Anderson’s fabulous break and offload allowed Kieran Curran to get over halfway, and then the pace came in the unlikely form of tighthead prop Onyeama-Christie, who beat several Wanderers men to the line with a tremendous 40-metre burst.

The visitors replied immediately after kicking to the corner and setting up another driving maul which saw them go blindside and Sleightholme squeezed his way over for his second try.

Wasps should have had their fifth try when Lovobalavu raced into space with support but he couldn’t find the money pass to send in a teammate and Northampton recovered with a scrum.

The hosts found themselves under pressure from a lineout by halfway as a loose ball allowed a Northampton boot to punt towards the tryline, only for Lovobalavu to sweep across and kick out the danger for a moment. From the resulting drive, an area where Northampton had looked strong for most of the game, the young Wasps were equal to it and came away with a scrum before clearing their lines.

And it was Wasps who managed to get the next points on the board with their fifth try as Watson went over after a barrage of pressure next to the line, courtesy of a Lovobalavu pass.

The hosts had their tails up and when Umaga burst from halfway into the Northampton 22, the home fans sensed another score. A penalty against Wanderers in front of the posts gave Wasps a decision, and so they decided to take three from the tee courtesy of Umaga, as the deficit was closed to two points.

With ten minutes left, Wasps had opportunities in possession, while Northampton also saw several close-range driving mauls halted or turned over by a determined young Wasps side, but in the end, the experienced Wanderers held on for a narrow win.

Wasps A | 15 Rob Miller, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Cameron Anderson, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Taju Atta (Sirker 51), 10 Jacob Umaga (vc), 9 Will Flinn (Coventry RFC) (Nott 74); 1 George Thornton (Langley 54), 2 Gabriel Oghre (c) (Barbeary 56-79), 3 Ben Onyeama-Christie (Dickinson 71), 4 Josh Fenner (Ward 61), 5 Tim Cardall, 6 Kieran Curran, 7 James Seabrook, 8 Joe Atkinson

Replacements | 16 Antony Dickinson (Rotherham Titans), 17 Alfie Barbeary, 18 David Langley, 19 Elliott Ward (Yorkshire Carnegie), 20 Scott Hall (Nottingham Rugby and Nottingham Trent University), 21 Josh Nott, 22 Sunni Jardine, 23 Callum Sirker

04m | Ratuniyarawa try 0-5
05m | Grayson con 0-7
10m | Sleightholme try 0-12
11m | Grayson con 0-14
12m | Lovobalavu try 5-14
13m | Umaga con 7-14
15m | Mitchell try 7-19
16m | Grayson con 7-21
20m | Oghre try 12-21
21m | Umaga con 14-21
33m | Mitchell try 14-26
34m | Grayson con 14-28
37m | Watson try 19-28
40m | Grayson pen 19-31
42m | Onyeama-Christie try 24-31
43m | Umaga con 26-31
45m | Sleightholme try 26-36
46m | Grayson con 26-38
64m | Watson try 31-38
65m | Umaga con 33-38
70m | Umaga pen 36-38