Saints’ Aviva Premiership top four hopes are not over yet, but they will need three wins from their final three matches after being overcome at the Ricoh Arena.
If there was one area in which there was a distinct difference between the teams it was in how they turned - or didn’t turn - their periods of pressure into points.
While in terms of possession and territory Saints were well in this contest for long periods, the eventual score perhaps giving a bit of a shine to the home team in this respect, in truth they did not create a clear try scoring opportunity, too often the ball hitting the deck at the crucial moment in the middle of an otherwise dangerous attack.
In contrast Wasps were about as clinical as they needed to be, finishing three tries and only being denied a fourth by some outstanding defensive work from Teimana Harrison on Rob Miller that stopped the full back’s arm from reaching over the whitewash.
Miller did go on to score a try in each half, the first giving his team a narrow but reachable lead at the break, the second sealing the result some 13 minutes from time. As with the reverse fixture Miller headed home with the man of the match champagne, but just like at Franklin’s Gardens he should be sharing it with George Smith, who was the key man in both scores.
The Australian’s break in the first half, and more importantly his awareness of his supporting runners, opened up Saints from deep for Miller’s first, while for the second the flanker drew two defenders to put the full back through a gap and let his pace do the rest.
This is not to say that Saints supporters should not be too disheartened by the performance. For one thing the lineout was superb, Christian Day and co taking apart this aspect of Wasps’ game. And at the breakdown Saints were very competitive, winning regular turnovers to give themselves the opportunity to set up attacks.
Kahn Fotuali’i stood out in this regard, as did Teimana Harrison with some powerful running, and there was a Tom Collins break from deep in the second half which had Wasps scrambling to cover.
The kicking game had some promise, too, but as with the handling there were a couple of vital moments when some more power needed to be given to chips over the top. Both times the ball rebounded kindly to Wasps, and with the first example bringing about Miller’s first try it was as clear a demonstration as any that when things are going for you, they are going for you.
This was also illustrated nine minutes into the second half, when, after having had all of the play, Saints conceded a penalty 58 metres out and Elliot Daly’s power from the tee provided the rest of the punishment.
There was another example a few minutes later, too. Stephen Myler had responded in kind to Daly, but when referee Luke Pearce awarded a kickable penalty Saints thought that it was just a free kick, taking it quickly to go down the blindside before fumbling a pass and allowing Wasps to relieve the pressure.
It was a small moment, but one of many small moments that summed up the afternoon.
WASPS Miller; Wade, Daly, S Piutau, Halai; Gopperth, Hampson; Mullan (capt), Johnson, Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury, Davies, Young, Smith, Hughes
Subs - Festuccia, McIntyre, Cittadini, Myall, Haskell, Stevenson, Jackson, Tagicakibau
SAINTS Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Mallinder, North; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Lawes, Day, Wood (capt), Harrison, Dickinson
Subs - Marshall, Ma’afu, Hill, Craig, Fisher, Dickson, Hanrahan, Collins
REFEREE Luke Pearce
2mins SAINTS Pen Myler 0-3
15mins WASPS Miss pen Gopperth
17mins WASPS Pen Gopperth 3-3
21mins WASPS Try Miller Con Gopperth 10-3
HALF-TIME WASPS 10 SAINTS 3
49mins WASPS Pen Daly 13-3
51mins SAINTS Pen Myler 13-6
60mins WASPS Miss pen Daly
67mins WASPS Try Miller Con Gopperth 20-6
75mins WASPS Pen Daly 23-6
78mins WASPS Try Stevenson 28-6
FULL-TIME WASPS 28 SAINTS 6