Northampton Wanderers secured their first win of the 2019/20 campaign as they downed local rivals Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Shield season opener at Franklin’s Gardens.
Things were level at the break with Wanderers' scores from Connor Tupai and Ryan Olowofela matched by a pair from the visitors. But the hosts pulled ahead in the second forty, with Tupai adding a second to his tally before Tommy Freeman added a solo score of his own.
Wasps would draw close for a dramatic finish at the Gardens but the young Wanderers side held out to secure maximum league points on the opening day.
Yes the Wandies 🙌🏼— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) November 25, 2019
It's a bonus-winning start to our Prem Rugby Shield campaign.
Wasps’ forwards claimed the first spoils of the evening, with Gabriel Oghre sneaking over the line at the base of a maul after sustained pressure in Wanderers’ 22.
The conversion from Billy Searle put the guests a score ahead but Wanderers’ smooth attack quickly put them on the front foot and though Wasps kept them out for a time, a deliberate knock on from Wasps' Tom Bacon saw him head to the sin bin and gave the home side their first real chance.
Olowofela raced up the field to get Wandies close and after his offload was impeded illegally by Bacon, the home side mauled close from the resulting lineout before Tupai dinked his way through Wasps' line for the score.
But Wasps’ dominance in the pack saw them hit straight back and a driving maul saw Oghre quickly over for his second of the night.
A silky move earned Wanderers' their second as Freeman cut through the field before finding Alex Coles on his shoulder to feed Olowofela – with the latter dashing the last yards to score.
James Grayson’s conversion levelled things at the break and it was Wanderers who took the first blood in the second forty too; the ball came quickly wide through Grayson, Freeman and Olowfela before Wanderers brought it back inside to Tupai for his second.
And the bonus point score was not far behind, as Freeman slipped past three defenders on his way in from the halfway line to score under the posts.
Two conversions from Grayson gave Wanderers a 26-12 lead and though another driving maul got Wasps close, it was a charge down from Tim Cardall that earned the guests their third – as the lock collected the loose ball over the line.
Wasps worked their way close as the game entered its final quarter and there Owain James secured the bonus point for the away side, taking the game within a score in the process.
And though Wanderers built up a good period of pressure on Wasps’ tryline, the home side’s discipline nearly cost them at the death, a string of penalties seeing Wasps work their way up the pitch; but resolute, the young Wanderers held their nerve and ran the clock down to claim their first win of the season.