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Prop partners prove crucial in Adams Park success

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

As you would expect from two teams separated by just four points and three places in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, the first half of the Sunday afternoon showdown at Adams Park was an even contest in all areas of the park.


And even though the number of genuine try opportunities could have been counted on one hand there was plenty to keep the crowd entertained.


Out wide Vasily Artemyev showed his pace and elusiveness on a number of occasions, and there was a noticeable rise in volume and anticipation whenever Christian Wade got the ball in his hands.


And up front the Wasps pack, perhaps with last year's match still at the back of their minds, were certainly giving as good as they were getting, particularly in the scrum. The contest up front was certainly one for the connoisseurs, but when Tim Payne's obvious motivation spilled over into excess with a punch aimed at Calum Clark he cost his side a man for 10 minutes.


Saints capitalised with a pair of Ryan Lamb penalties, but with both teams demonstrating excellent handling skills the visitors did not have a chance to exert their dominance in a scrum.


Indeed they went behind briefly during Payne's time on the sidelines when Riki Flutey, who had handed Saints their first three points by not releasing Lamb in a tackle, became Wasps' hero three minutes later when he crossed in the left corner.


The try came from some good vision from Joe Simpson, who spotted plenty of space behind the Saints defensive line and dinked a chip for Tom Varndell and Wade to chase. For a split second it looked like Chris Ashton had swept up the danger, but the ball slid out from the wing's grasp under pressure from Varndell and Aviva Premiership Rugby's top try scorer Wade turned provider by putting Flutey over unopposed.


It was no more that Wasps deserved as the Wycombe outfit had had the majority of the play. However an exchange of penalties meant that it was not long before Saints were back in front and threatening themselves. Artemyev had another dangerous run, set up by some superb vision from Lamb, and only a marginal decision on a forward pass from the assistant referee stopped a dangerous Saints attack in its tracks.


Tom May was another Saint to make a good break which brought about another penalty, and while Lamb kicked this one and the next, a last-gasp shot at goal before the break drifted left of the posts and Saints had to be content with just a four-point lead.


However within two minutes of the restart Saints finally had a bit of breathing space. Although they failed to collect the kick off, two turnovers put the visitors on the front foot, and while they had the benefit of a marginal decision over a pass from Courtney Lawes to May which could have drifted forward there was no doubting the finish from Soane Tonga'uiha, who crashed over from close range for a 17-8 lead.


Tonga'uiha was out-done 11 minutes later by his propping partner Brian Mujati. The Zimbabwean is as renowned for his play in the loose as he is in the tight, but it was definitely the former which came to the fore when he brushed Nicky Robinson off to run in from the 22-metre line. Lamb - who had missed his previous two kicks - had the straightforward conversion from in front of the sticks and all of a sudden Saints were 16 points up.


They had taken their only two chances of the game, but it was the last time that Saints got within sight of the home whitewash. Instead Wasps showed the same resolve and determination that had earned them a last-minute Round 7 win at Worcester and slowly but surely battled their way back into the contest.


Their domination of possession and territory was palpable in the final quarter with the hosts pinning Saints very much in their own half. But while the effort did not waver Wasps lacked the killer touch they needed, and while Ross Filipo crossed from close range it was just a consolation score and Saints will go into the Heineken Cup break lying just a point off the play-off places in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.


REFEREE Tim WIGGLESWORTH


TIMELINE

13mins WASPS Yellow card Payne

15mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 0-3

18mins WASPS Try Flutey 5-3

21mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 5-6

26mins WASPS Pen Robinson 8-6

29mins SAINTS Miss pen Lamb

33mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 8-9

36mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 8-12

40mins SAINTS Miss pen Lamb

HALF-TIME WASPS 8 SAINTS 12

42mins SAINTS Try Tonga'uiha 8-17

50mins SAINTS Miss pen Lamb

53mins SAINTS Try Mujati Con Lamb 8-24

70mins WASPS Try Filipo 13-24

FULL-TIME WASPS 13 SAINTS 24