Hughes red card is key as leaders Saints sink Wasps

WORRYING MOMENT - George North is treated by the Saints medical staff after he was knocked out while scoring his team's second try against Wasps (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)
WORRYING MOMENT - George North is treated by the Saints medical staff after he was knocked out while scoring his team's second try against Wasps (Pictures: Sharon Lucey)

George North scored twice before leaving the field on a stretcher as Saints secured a 52-30 win against Wasps on a frenetic night at Franklin’s Gardens.

North was knocked out by the knee of Nathan Hughes after scoring his second try in the 35th minute and referee Craig Maxwell-Keys dismissed the Wasps No.8 for his role in the incident.

However, the more immediate concern was for the Wales wing, who was down for around 10 minutes before being carried off to a standing ovation.

North had been rested for a Six Nations game against Scotland after suffering two hefty blows in Wales’s defeat to England in early February.

But he was said to be awake after leaving the field.

Saints proceeded to do the job in his absence, with a penalty try and an Alex Corbisiero effort helping them complete the turnaround.

Wasps had raced into a 20-5 lead through two Christian Wade tries and the assured boot of fly-half Alex Lozowski, but Hughes’s red card turned the game.

Wade completed his hat-trick late on, but an effort from Ken Pisi and a quckfire double from Ahsee Tuala, who came on for North, gave the scoreline a gloss for Saints.

It means Saints are now 14 points clear at the top of the Aviva Premiership, with just four games of the regular season remaining.

Wasps had hoped to complete the double over Jim Mallinder’s men, having won 20-16 at Adams Park back in September.

North was knocked out by the knee of Nathan Hughes after scoring his second try in the 35th minute and referee Craig Maxwell-Keys dismissed the Wasps No.8 for his role in the incident

Tom Vickers

And they landed an early sucker punch as Wade made the most of a turnover on the edge of the Wasps 22, turning on the turbos to race in from halfway.

Lozowski added the extras to give the away side a 7-0 lead inside six minutes and, to make matters worse, George Pisi was forced off with an injury sustained in the build-up to the try.

But despite those early blows, Saints issued a rapid response as Stephen Myler’s expertly-executed crossfield kick landed in the hands of North, who dotted down with ease.

Myler’s conversion hit the right upright and Wasps were soon adding more points to their tally as Lozowski made the most of a Christian Day error to land a penalty.

Saints were struggling to assert any authority on the game and, instead, it was Lozowski and Wade who were taking it by the scruff of the neck.

After the fly-half made a break, Wade used his acceleration to evade North and dive over in the corner.

The conversion made the gap an alarming 12 points after just 20 minutes and Saints needed a tonic.

Myler provided three points, but the home side were not finding favour with fresh-faced referee Maxwell-Keys, who was attracting plenty of boos from the Gardens faithful.

And the official soon had a major decision to make as after North scored in the corner, Hughes’s knee made contact with the wing’s head.

After reviewing the footage, with North out cold, Hughes was shown the red card.

Myler missed the conversion, but Saints soon had their third score as the forwards secured a penalty try.

The extras levelled the scores and 14-man Wasps were about to have a mountain to climb as England prop Corbisiero dived over before the break.

Myler’s conversion gave Saints a seven-point lead but Lozowski’s impressive kicking display continued after the interval as he immediately landed a penalty.

Myler responded by adding two of his own before Wade completed his hat-trick, once again speeding around the Saints defence to score.

Lozowski’s conversion threatened an edgy finale, but Saints made the most of their extra man, sucking Wasps in and releasing Ken Pisi, who scored.

Myler’s conversion restored the 10-point lead and Wasps, who were tiring, were stung twice more before the end as Tuala’s double completed a sizeable success.

Match facts

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi (Waldouck 6), Stephenson, North (Tuala 35); Myler, Dickson (Fotuali’i 62); Corbisiero (A Waller 62), Hartley (c) (Haywood 62), Ma’afu (Denman 62); Lawes (Fisher 60), Day (Dickinson 40); Wood, Clark, Manoa.

Wasps: Miller; Wade, Daly, Downey, Tagicakibau (Helu 61); Lozowski, Simpson (Weepu 61); Mullan (c) (Swainston 60), Shervington (Jackson 50), Cittadini; Cannon (Gaskell 50), Myall; Johnson, Young (Thompson 60), N Hughes.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys