Wasps put in fine defensive performance to beat Saints

For the first time since 1996/97, Wasps made it four wins from their first four games, to go top of the Premiership table, with Leicester v Bath still to play in Round 4, on Sunday.

15 - 20
Northampton Saints Wasps

Sat 24th September 2016
3:00 pm

Franklin's Gardens Stadium Aviva Premiership As it happened

The victory was based on an outstanding defensive effort, in which they withstood enormous pressure. They rode their luck, as the home side squandered at least three opportunities. Existing on scraps of possession, Wasps looked threatening on the break but it was defensive pressure which set up Josh Bassett’s decisive 78th-minute try.

Barely 70 seconds had elapsed when the home side took the lead with a well-worked try. They won a lineout on the Wasps 22 and moved the ball quickly infield. Louis Picamoles and Kieran Brookes put in powerful bursts in midfield, which helped create an overlap on the left and quick passing sent George North over in the corner. Stephen Myler missed the conversion.

Wasps responded with an impressive period of controlled play, retaining possession through countless phases. They appeared to have numbers on the right but Danny Cipriani’s pass fell at Elliot Daly’s feet and the centre knocked on a few metres outside the home 22.

On ten minutes, Ben Foden sent a long clearance kick towards the left corner. It looked as if it was going to go dead, but then bounced sharply to the left, to find touch a few metres from the line. Wasps won the lineout and controlled possession well, making ground, before releasing the ball for Joe Simpson to clear upfield.

The home side then won a penalty which they sent into touch at the corner. James Gaskell stole possession but his deflection evaded Simpson and Wasps were forced to touch down, giving Saints an attacking scrum. They tried to power their way over but the defence forced them back. Saints then moved the ball out to the right and came within a whisker of a second try, but were held up over the line. The referee was playing advantage and Northampton went for another lineout. They made a series of thrusts for the line but were kept out by some magnificent tackling, before they knocked on a few metres short.

Wasps won the scrum and then stunned the home crowd with a sensational try, created by an audacious chip by Danny Cipriani inside his own 22. He gathered his own kick before feeding Guy Thompson on his inside. Thompson made a few metres before passing to Jimmy Gopperth, who managed to weave his way away from George North and run in from nearly 50 metres, for his third try of the season. He added the simple conversion to put Wasps ahead with 20 minutes gone.

Three minutes later, Northampton thought they had reclaimed the lead when Ken Pisi went over in the corner, but the try was ruled out for blocking earlier in the move. Wasps immediately constructed another slick attack, but it broke down when Elliot Daly lost possession in contact 12 metres inside the Northampton half.

The home side then had a stroke of good luck when Ben Foden appeared to knock on when gathering a long kick just outside his 22. The referee thought otherwise and the fullback sent a kick downfield. Nathan Hughes collided with him as he attempted to charge down and a penalty was awarded where the ball landed. From the attacking lineout Wasps’ defence again looked solid and they were rewarded with a penalty of their own.

Nine minutes before the break, Wasps won a scrum penalty on the Northampton 10-metre line 18 metres in from the left touchline. Jimmy Gopperth duly sent the ball between the posts to stretch the lead to 10-5. Wasps then created a try-scoring opportunity when they ran the ball from a scrum, 10 metres inside their own half. Following a superbly executed double loop move, Josh Bassett joined the line from the opposite wing and fed Christian Wade who had a clear run-in from 40 metres but the final pass had just drifted forward, to the relief of the home crowd.

Wasps then had an escape of their own after Guy Thompson knocked on near halfway. Northampton moved the ball out to the right and Harry Mallinder broke clear. He had Ken Pisi on his inside but Josh Bassett’s tackle forced a forward pass and saved a try.

Northampton kept up the pressure and won a penalty near the right corner with just over a minute of the half to play. They kicked to touch and won the lineout, but were forced into touch by further aggressive Wasps defence. There was time for one last attack, but a huge overlap on the right was ignored and the halftime whistle blew, with Wasps still 10-5 to the good.

Northampton applied the early pressure after the restart and Wasps were forced to chance their arm, moving the ball inside their own 22. The home side came close to a try when Louis Picamoles’ inside pass to George Pisi was knocked on, just short of the line.  In attempting to tackle Picamoles, Danny Cipriani took a blow to the head and was replaced by Kyle Eastmond.

Wasps then reminded the crowd of their attacking threat, when Guy Thompson burst through the middle to take play into the 22. He found Jimmy Gopperth but the fly half stepped inside rather than move the ball out to the right, where there was a hint of an overlap.

Just after the hour, Wasps made three tactical replacements with Dan Robson, Simon McIntyre and Marty Moore taking over from Joe Simpson, Matt Mullan and Jake Cooper-Woolley. The front row changes had an immediate effect as Wasps won a scrum penalty, 35 metres out, a few metres to the right of the posts. Man of the match Jimmy Gopperth was on target again to put Wasps eight points ahead.

Moments later, Wasps won a breakdown penalty just inside the Northampton half, almost in front of the posts, and long-range specialist Elliot Daly took on the kick. It had the distance but dropped just to the right of the posts. Almost immediately, Ben Foden was penalised for taking out Christian Wade as the winger leapt high to gather Jimmy Gopperth’s kick. Possession was untidy and Wasps were forced backwards. When they came infield they were penalised at the breakdown.

They immediately had another opportunity with an attacking lineout from a penalty to the right corner, but were penalised for blocking. Soon after Wasps made further changes with Ashley Johnson, Kearnan Myall and Thomas Young replacing Tommy Taylor, Matt Symons and Guy Thompson. Within a minute, Symons returned to replace the injured James Gaskell.

Jimmy Gopperth’s precise kick to the corner almost produced a try for Christian Wade, but despite making up ground on the defenders ahead the winger narrowly lost the race to the ball. Josh Bassett then went close after slick passing gave him some space on the left, but he was forced into touch at the corner.

It was then Northampton who came close after a Wasps attack broke down. They gathered the loose ball and sent a huge kick downfield. Under extreme pressure, Jimmy Gopperth did well to gather and retain the ball for long enough for the defence to re-group and clear from near the corner. There was then an even closer shave when Courtney Lawes knocked on a few metres from the line, with a three-man overlap outside him.

With time running out, the home side stepped up the pressure and a series of lineout drives resulted in a yellow card for Nathan Hughes after previous team infringements, six minutes from time. From the next lineout, the initial drive was repelled but replacement scrum-half Tom Kessell gathered and wriggled over. Stephen Myler’s conversion brought the score to 12-13 with under five minutes left on the clock.

Wasps were now under the cosh and Kyle Eastmond caught the eye with some thunderous tackles. Eventually Wasps stole possession and Dan Robson raced away from the breakdown. He chipped over Ken Pisi but was brought down by the defender’s trailing leg. Josh Bassett followed up and won a desperate race to the touchdown. Pisi was shown a yellow card and MOTM Gopperth converted to put Wasps 20-12 clear.

Northampton pulled back three points with a last-minute Myler penalty. Wasps almost snatched a third try when Elliot Daly gathered Gopperth’s restart but Northampton stole possession. They kept the ball alive through a series of phases which took them towards halfway, before Kessell knocked on at a breakdown and Wasps had secured their second successive win at Franklin’s Gardens and their fourth straight Premiership victory.

Next Sunday, Wasps face Harlequins at the Ricoh Arena, in a hotly anticipated clash after Quins beat Premiership and European Champions Saracens at the Stoop in Round 4. Tickets are available from £15 with U102 going free. Either book online HERE or in person at the Ricoh Arena, or call 02476 786411

Northampton Saints Line ups

  1. Alex Waller
  2. Mike Haywood
  3. Kieran Brookes
  4. Courtney Lawes
  5. Sam Dickinson
  6. Tom Wood
  7. Jamie Gibson
  8. Louis Picamoles
  9. Nic Groom
  10. Stephen Myler
  11. George North
  12. Harry Mallinder
  13. George Pisi
  14. Ken Pisi
  15. Ben Foden
  16. Charlie Clare
  17. Campese Ma'afu
  18. Paul Hill
  19. Michael Paterson
  20. Teimana Harrison
  21. Tom Kessell
  22. Rory Hutchinson
  23. Ahsee Tuala

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Jake Cooper-Woolley
  4. Matt Symons
  5. James Gaskell
  6. Sam Jones
  7. Guy Thompson
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Joe Simpson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Josh Bassett
  12. Jimmy Gopperth
  13. Elliot Daly
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Rob Miller
  16. Ashley Johnson
  17. Simon McIntyre
  18. Martin Moore
  19. Kearnan Myall
  20. Thomas Young
  21. Dan Robson
  22. Kyle Eastmond
  23. Nick De Luca