Northampton Saints took two bonus points home from the Ricoh Arena after they were narrowly beaten by Wasps in an entertaining back-and-forth contest.
The hosts held a narrow 21-17 lead at the interval despite two tries from Teimana Harrison and Api Ratuniyarawa, with Stephen Myler contributing seven points from the tee.
While Wasps extended their lead to 16 points early in the second half, Saints stuck to their task and almost pulled off an unlikely comeback with tries from Alex Mitchell and Ahsee Tuala – and even though Northampton just fell short they took losing and try bonus points back to Franklin’s Gardens for their efforts.
The hosts made the most of the electric atmosphere inside the Ricoh Arena to score after just five minutes, with Christian Wade going over in the right corner after quick hands from the Wasps backs.
Jimmy Gopperth struck the touchline conversion beautifully to make it 7-0, but while Wasps broke again with pace shortly after, resilient defence from Northampton kept them at bay and Saints were able to clear.
And they got their reward as a brilliant break by Cobus Reinach opened up the space and the ball popped into Harrison’s hands for the Saints flanker to go over to the left of the posts – Myler levelling the scores with a routine conversion.
Saints were pinged for holding on and Gopperth put the hosts ahead again from the tee, before Wasps’ pace on the wings paid dividends once again as Elliot Daly was put into space around the outside to score in the left corner.
This time Gopperth’s conversion was slightly wide of the target, but the hosts led 15-7 with 20 minutes played.
A couple of quickfire penalties took Northampton up the field, and after several attempts from the back of the ruck, Ratuniyarawa finally picked the ball and drove over the whitewash to bring Saints within a point – Myler making no mistake with the extras.
And while two Gopperth kicks extended Wasps’ lead to seven points, Myler pegged them back on the stroke of half-time with a penalty of his own as Saints won an impressive scrum penalty.
It took Wasps just five minutes to cross the tryline again after half-time, as after Luther Burrell saw yellow after a collision with Wade, the Wasps winger was fed by Willie Le Roux to score again in the right corner.
Ten minutes later the hosts really turned the screw with a score from Juan de Jongh, meaning Saints needed a response – and they so nearly got it when Mitch Eadie’s offload found Reinach who burst into space, but with replacement Tom Collins outside him somehow Danny Capriani made a covering tackle to stop a certain try.
Northampton however did claw their way back into the game after Jamie Gibson broke down the right and found replacement Mitchell inside him to score. James Grayson added the extras to make it 33-24 and it was game on with 15 minutes remaining.
Mitchell was then in the thick of things once again moments later, breaking the line and after Collins also made ground, it was Tuala who touched down to bring Saints within a score.
Gopperth’s penalty gave Wasps some breathing room, but a frantic final few minutes were still to come as the TMO chalked off a score for the hosts after James Haskell was penalised, before Saints were just held up in front of the Wasps line with the clock ticking into the red.
5’ WASPS Try Wade, Conversion Gopperth 7-0
12’ SAINTS Try Harrison, Conversion Myler 7-7
16’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 10-7
20’ WASPS Try Daly 15-7
28’ SAINTS Try Ratuniyarawa, Conversion Myler 15-14
30’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 18-14
33’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 21-14
40’ SAINTS Penalty Myler 21-17
HALF-TIME: Wasps 21 – 17 Saints
45’ WASPS Try Wade, Conversion Gopperth 28-17
55’ WASPS Try De Jongh, 33-17
64’ SAINTS Try Mitchell, Conversion Grayson 33-24
69’ SAINTS Try Tuala 33-29
72’ WASPS Penalty Gopperth 36-29
FULL-TIME: Wasps 36 – 29 Saints