Leicester’s victory in Cardiff had meant that Saints needed just a healthy win to confirm their place in the knock-outs, and three tries in the minutes either side of half-time saw them steadily pull clear of a Wasps outfit that never stopped trying.
Ahsee Tuala got a warm reception from the capacity crowd, who welcomed his first touch of the ball with a healthy round of applause, too. That wasn’t surprising, given it was a 60-metre touchfinder, and before the opening 10 minutes were over the Samoan had endeared himself to the Saints faithful with a great finish in the Shrubbery Corner.
Tuala’s try rounded off a promising first attack from the hosts, featuring charges from Matti Williams, Tom Ryder and Phil Dowson, amongst others, and a lovely swerve and pass from Tom Stephenson in the final part of the play.
With Sam Olver nailing the extras from the touchline Saints had had a decent start, and the ideal reply to Wasps’ dangerous opening salvos and an Alex Lozowski penalty.
Those were the only points of the opening quarter, but there was plenty to entertain the crowd. Both sides were fizzing the ball about with intent, and if Olver had hit a cross-field kick with a nine-iron instead of a wedge then Ken Pisi would have been away and clear down the right wing.
His opposite number Tom Varndell was looking dangerous, too, one touchline run setting up the position which eventually earned Lozowski his second shot at goal, which he duly took.
Olver replied two minutes later, but for long periods after that it was all Wasps, and had Rob Miller and George Eastwell used overlaps in successive attacks then the hosts would have been in serious trouble.
Saints’ defence was up to the challenge, though, and that effort was rewarded five minutes before the break when Dowson crashed over from close range after some powerful and pacy recycling at repeated breakdowns.
Kahn Fotuali’i was prompting his pack superbly, and the Samoan’s form continued after the break, firstly setting up a try for Jamie Elliott with a sublime chip to the left corner, and then in going over by the sticks for the bonus point score six minutes after that.
He left the fray on the hour to a great ovation, but while the hosts had built up a 23-point lead they had not had everything their own way.
Wasps continued to threaten, but Varndell ignored Ed Jackson on the outside, when a simple draw the man and pass would have put the flanker over. But Pisi was not alone in pulling off a great tackle, and with some outstanding work across the goal line Wasps were not just forced back 20 metres but also fumbled the ball to give Saints the chance to clear.
There was another goal-line stanza to follow as Wasps’ forwards ground through the gears, but repeated charges were pulled down inches of the whitewash and any chance of what would have been a remarkable comeback was gone.
SAINTS Tuala; K Pisi, Waldouck, Stephenson, Elliott; Olver, Fotuali’i; Corbisiero, Williams, Denman, Ryder, Craig, Dowson (c), Harrison, Dickinson
Subs - Haywood, E Waller, Ma’afu, Woolford, Nutley, A Day, Hooley, G Pisi
WASPS Miller; Bassett, Daly, Helu, Varndell; Lozowski, Lindsay, Taylor, Rowlands, Cannon, Jackson (c), Young, Thompson
Subs - Festuccia, McIntyre, Cooper-Woolley, Myall, Hughes, Walsh, Hughes, Eastwell
5mins WASPS Pen Lozowski 0-3
7mins SAINTS Try Tuala Con Olver 7-3
21mins WASPS Pen Lozowski 7-6
23mins SAINTS Pen Olver 10-6
35mins SAINTS Try Dowson Con Olver 17-6
HALF-TIME SAINTS 17 WASPS 6
42mins SAINTS Try Elliott 22-6
48mins SAINTS Try Fotuali’i Con Olver 29-6
FULL-TIME SAINTS 29 WASPS 6