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MATCH REPORT Day provides the drama as Saints snatch the points

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Up until this Round 18 clash London Wasps had not been beaten on their home turf in either Aviva Premiership Rugby or in Europe this season, and in their second half fightback they had shown why.


After being pummelled up front in the first half by a rampant Saints eight, Wasps took the lead on the hour thanks to Elliot Daly's try, the centre showing power and balance to sprint home from 20 metres, before backing that up with some impressive defence in the tight and loose alike.


But Saints maintained their composure, and when Billy Vunipola was penalised for being in front of Joe Simpson's box kick with 90 seconds to go, Stephen Myler sent a spiral to the touchline and the pack did the rest.


Christian Day was awarded the try, and with Myler keeping his nerve Saints had recorded a memorable bonus point win that - temporarily at least - put them in third place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.


Sixty minutes earlier few of the 7,193 who had piled on the layers before heading to the snowy Chilterns could have foreseen such an ending.


In the first half Saints destroyed the Wasps pack with a rolling maul which brought tries in the seventh, 17th and 34th minutes for Lee Dickson, Dylan Hartley, and initially a Penalty Try.


Playing into a biting wind and increasing snow the rolling maul was the perfect weapon to employ, not least because the tactic was also seeing T Rhys Thomas and Tom Palmer sent to the sin bin. But what was just as impressive was both teams' determination to put the ball through the hands and give the backs regular opportunities to show what they could do.


Saints were popping the ball up among the forwards and Ben Foden combined with George Pisi regularly to ask questions of the home defence. But Wasps have earned plenty of column inches for their three-quarter play this season, too, and they showed exactly why at the end of the opening quarter when Tom Varndell sprinted home from 40 metres.


Stephen Jones landed the conversion and two penalties, and with Daly also kicking three points from long range the hosts kept themselves well in the contest, going into the break just three points down.


The opening minutes of the second half saw Saints try to repeat what had been so successful before the break, Myler sending two kickable penalties to the corner. However while everything had gone Saints' way before the break, after the resumption of play Wasps were getting the bounce of the ball and as their rearguard held the faithful in the stands became increasingly vociferous.


The volume rose even more when England forwards James Haskell and Joe Launchbury entered the fray, and a bolstered Wasps went onto the front foot. Vunipola, Ashley Johnson and Zak Taulafo were all to the fore with the ball in hand, and their approach play was rewarded by Jones's third penalty.


Ninety seconds later Daly had struck, too, and with Saints looking somewhat punch drunk the scene was set for Wasps to kick on and complete the recovery, not least when Myler was asked to go for the uprights from 50 metres, only to miss to the left.


But Saints kept their resolve, Johnson ruined an otherwise impressive afternoon by being yellow carded seven minutes from time for pulling down a maul, and when Day was driven over the relief and joy among the travelling players, coaches, staff and supporters alike could have been heard all the way back up the M40.


TIMELINE

7mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Myler 0-7

7mins WASPS Yellow card Thomas

12mins WASPS Pen Daly 3-7

15mins SAINTS Try Dickson 3-12

18mins WASPS Try Varndell Con St Jones 10-12

27mins WASPS Pen St Jones 13-12

32mins WASPS Yellow card Palmer

34mins SAINTS Try Hartley Con Myler 13-19

38mins WASNS Pen St Jones 16-19

HALF-TIME WASPS 16 SAINTS 19

59mins WASPS Pen St Jones 19-19

60mins WASPS Try Daly 24-19

69mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

73mins WASPS Yellow card Johnson

80mins SAINTS Try Hartley Con Myler 24-26

FULL-TIME WASPS 24 SAINTS 26