A late penalty try proved the difference at Franklin’s Gardens as Wasps shaded an enthralling Premiership Rugby Cup clash 36-32, in Northampton Saints’ first home match of the season.
The rollercoaster match was neck and neck at the break, with the hosts taking a narrow 13-12 lead into the sheds thanks to tries from James Fish and Taqele Naiyaravoro, plus James Grayson’s penalty.
But despite scores from Mitch Eadie, Fraser Dingwall and a penalty try, Saints fell short with Naiyaravoro unfortunate to pick up a second yellow card in the 75th minute – Wasps were awarded a penalty try in the aftermath to scoop their first victory of the new season.
The visitors were first to trouble the scorers with Nizaam Carr profiting from a good ninth-minute scrum, and the flanker fed Jacob Umaga who darted through an gap and converted his own try to make it 7-0.
Saints hit back almost immediately though through Fish, with a lineout won by the men in Black, Green, and Gold and the hooker dotting down at the back of a rolling maul – although Grayson’s conversion attempt struck the woodwork.
Northampton then took the lead in fortunate circumstances on 17 minutes, with Rory Hutchinson’s pass hitting a Saint’s head on the way to Naiyaravoro, who was left with the simple task of finishing his first try of the season – the TMO confirming the score.
Saints then extended their lead in the 24th minute with a well-stuck Grayson penalty from all of 40 metres, but Naiyaravoro was then sin-binned for a cynical trip and Wasps made their man advantage count on the stroke of half-time as Marcus Watson’s fancy footwork paved the way for former Saints Tim Cardall to crash over the line and bring it back to 13-12.
Immediately after the restart Wasps were awarded a penalty which was quickly taken, Zurabi Zhavania flicking the ball to Sione Vailanu who finished on the left – but the lead was short-lived with Eadie intercepting on halfway and running in under the posts unopposed.
Grayson added the extras but Wasps edged ahead again through Carr, who benefitted from Owain James’ outrageous offload over his own head to secure the bonus point.
But the first penalty try of the afternoon then went Saints’ way as Naiyaravoro made the difference again, shrugging off several defenders and looking to release Tom Collins for a certain try – but Umaga knocked on deliberately and was shown a yellow before referee Michael Hudson went under the sticks to award the score.
At 27-22 the next score was vital, and Wasps struck a crucial blow again through Jack Willis, before Rob Miller’s clutch kick went through the sticks – but Dingwall then responded with a fine score in the corner of his own to keep the Garden’s crowd on the edge of their seats.
But a crazy match ended in spectacular fashion as Naiyaravoro was shown a second yellow for what was deemed to be a high tackle by the TMO on a stooping James, and Wasps were awarded a penalty try.
Saints hammered on the door with a last-gasp rally under the Wasps posts, and despite several penalties against the visitors, a lineout went awry and the ball was cleared to touch to condemn Northampton to back-to-back Premiership Rugby Cup defeats.