Saints survive second-half Wasps fightback to secure third successive win

Saints survived a second-half fightback from Wasps as Chris Boyd's side secured a nerve-jangling 22-17 win at the Ricoh Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, 6th February 2021, 3:12 pm
Alex Mitchell in action for Saints at the Ricoh Arena

It was a third Gallagher Premiership win on the spin for the resurgent Saints, who certainly did things the hard way late on.

Wasps had been hit by yellow peril during the first period as Kieran Brookes and James Gaskell were sin-binned, leaving them down to 13 men.

And Saints took advantage, building on an early Shaun Adendorff score with efforts from Sam Matavesi and Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Some determined defending meant Wasps couldn't respond, leaving last season's Premiership runners-up 22-0 down at the break.

But Wasps battled back after half-time as Saints had their own disciplinary issues to contend with.

Naiyaravoro and Piers Francis found themselves in the sin bin on separate occasions and Wasps flew back into contention.

It looked like they would complete a remarkable recovery when they pulled themselves back to five points down with 12 minutes to go.

But with Francis in the bin, Saints stuck at it and they eventually held out to grab another morale-boosting win.

The black, green and gold had gone into the game on the back of victories against Worcester and Gloucester, and they enjoyed plenty of early possession at the Ricoh.

Wasps were holding out well until Tim Cardall got caught on the wrong side, allowing James Grayson to slot a penalty.

But Wasps responded well, with wave after wave of attacks going towards the Saints line, but the men in white made tackle after tackle to keep their hosts out.

And eventually Saints won a penalty at a five-metre scrum to win the ball back, celebrating wildly as they earned the right to escape from their own half.

Saints used the possession superbly, piecing together a tidy score that ended with Tommy Freeman smartly staying in play and Adendorff picking up to dot down.

Grayson missed the conversion from the right touchline and Wasps looked set to cut the gap when they were awarded a penalty, but it was reversed when Brookes was sin-binned for a shoulder charge on Matavesi at a ruck.

And Wasps were down to just 13 men a minute later as Gaskell was yellow carded for an off-the-ball challenge on Lewis Ludlam.

Saints soon took advantage with an incredible maul from long range that eventually allowed Matavesi to get the ball down.

Grayson converted well and Saints had plenty more time to make their numerical advantage count further.

And they did, setting up another maul that took Matavesi within range before he passed to the onrushing Naiyaravoro for the wing's second score in as many matches.

Grayson converted well and Saints led 22-0, needing just one more score for the try bonus point.

Wasps tried to respond after kicking a penalty to the corner, but even with Brookes back on they didn't have the power and Saints forced a knock on.

There was one final chance for the home side to attack before the break as Gaskell returned to bring them back to full strength.

But Saints were in defiant mood, holding the ball up over the line and ensuring Wasps failed to register a single point during a first half in which the away side had excelled in both red zones.

However, it was a different story at the start of the second period as Wasps came flying out of the blocks and Rob Miller scored to immediately eat into the deficit.

Jimmy Gopperth converted well from out wide and Saints were soon hit by a sin-binning of their own as Naiyaravoro was yellow carded for a high tackle.

It was becoming a penalty-fest in Wasps' favour but Saints eventually earned one of their own thanks to Ludlam to relieve some pressure with the hosts flying forward.

It was all starting to get a bit scrappy, with Saints' ball security not good enough, allowing Wasps chances to get back into the game.

Jacob Umaga landed a penalty to cut the gap to 12 points with 18 minutes to go and Saints were struggling to get any sort of momentum.

After Francis was sin-binned, Wasps scored almost immediately as replacement hooker Tommy Taylor went over.

Umaga converted and Wasps were now just five points behind with 12 minutes remaining, nine of which Saints would have to play a man down.

But by the time Francis returned, Saints were still five points in front and they looked in determined mood, winning a penalty against the head at the scrum to ensure they would keep possession with two minutes remaining.

Wasps were able to get the ball back, but they couldn't advance past halfway as Ludlam got over the ball and won a penalty that ensured his side would seal a nervy success.

Wasps: Miller (Umaga 57); Kibirige, Fekitoa, Gopperth (Le Bourgeois 51), Minozzi; Atkinson, Wolstenholme (Vellacott 57); Harris, Cruse (Taylor 50), Brookes (Toomaga-Allen 56); Cardall, Gaskell; Shields (c), Oghre, T Willis (Morris 64).

Saints: Freeman; Sleightholme, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro (Tuala 64); Grayson, Mitchell (James 64); Waller (cc) (van Wyk 62), Matavesi (Haywood 59), Hill (Franks 59 (Hill 64)); Ribbans, Moon (Coles 20); Isiekwe, Ludlam (cc), Adendorff (Wood 59).

Referee: Adam Leal