Saints had the better of the opening exchanges, working through the phases to battle their way upfield and into the visitors’ 22. But Wasps came to the Gardens top of the try scoring charts, and they showed just how dangerous they are when Nathan Hughes’s turnover ball brought the first points of the night.
Saints had stacked themselves to the right of that breakdown, which left plenty of space on the other side, and with Ashley Johnson and James Downey keeping it simple by getting the ball wide it left Christian Wade with the relatively straightforward task of using his blistering speed to round Courtney Lawes and head unopposed to the posts from 70 metres.
Still, if taking such a blow rocked the Saints it did not show, and when awarded a kickable penalty Dylan Hartley had no hesitation in getting Stephen Myler to send it to the corner.
The forwards pulled in the Wasps on the far side, infringing as they did so, and playing with the advantage Myler put a superb cross-field kick in the air to George North, who out-leaped Wade to cross for the try.
Myler was not as accurate from the tee, hitting the right upright, and with Alex Lozowski adding a penalty to his earlier conversion Wasps still had some clear water as the end of the opening quarter approached.
Lozowski was also on the money with ball in hand, and a superb break on the home 22 took apart a dog-legged defence. Pace put him through the line, but he also had the awareness to wait for Wade to coast up in support, and the winger did the rest from close range, despite Lee Dickson’s best efforts.
The try aside, precious little went Saints’ way in that first 20 minutes - they were on the wrong end of the penalty count, and even a Wasps clearance rebounded off a green chest to give the visitors a good attacking position.
This time Saints turned the ball over to win a penalty, and when Wasps came over the top of a ruck after a Tom Stephenson break Myler sent play to the near touchline for the set piece. The forwards set up a maul, North came off his wing, but Lozowski this time showed his defensive quality by stripping Courtney Lawes while the lock was charging for the line.
But Wasps could not clear their lines, with the pressure eventually bringing a penalty in front of the sticks that Myler duly struck cleanly.
It took five minutes for Lozowski to reply, but the kick off brought both an immediate reply and a major set back for both teams.
Same Manoa’s collection of the kick off was immense, as was his off-load to North. The Welshman did the rest, using his pace, footwork and power to take him over the line, but in the process of scoring he received a knee in the head from Hughes.
North was prostrate, Hughes red carded, and even though Myler missed the conversion after a long break for the winger to be treated and carried off to the medical room the momentum swing was immediate. Sailosi Tagicakibau made a hash of the kick off to concede a lineout, and when Saints turned on the power referee Craig Maxwell-Keys had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try.
And there was more to come before half-time. Ahsee Tuala made an immediate impact, forcing Wade into conceding a penalty, and after Myler put the ball quickly to the corner the pack did the rest, Christian Day finding Alex Corbisiero with a great offload to put the prop over the whitewash. Myler added the extras, and Saints did not just have the lead going into the break, but a bonus point to boot.
Having conceded 19 unanswered points and the red card Wasps needed to stop the rot, which they did two minutes after the re-start with his third successful penalty of the evening. And Wasps continued to have the better of the next few minutes, looking to put pace into their play and forcing Saints back into their own territory.
Still it was the hosts who had the first try scoring chance, Salesi Ma’afu being driven into touch close to the Wasps line after a couple of penalties had been kicked to touch. Dom Waldouck had a decent run, and Joe Simpson put himself under pressure on his own line with a fumble, but all it eventually brought was a Myler penalty that extended the lead to seven.
As the third quarter ended the benches started to be used, Alex Waller coming on for his 150th appearance, and if anything the pace intensified.
This was showcased by some fantastic play from both teams, Elliot Daly chipping and chasing, only for Dickson to come in at just the right time and keep his balance superbly to spark a great counter-attack that ended with Tuala being tackled into touch on the far side 20 metres out.
Myler took the lead into double figures on the hour, but Wasps kept on coming, and kept the game alive with Wade’s third try.
It could have been a penalty to Saints, Simon McIntyre having bored in at a home scrum 15 metres out. But the officials missed it, Wasps turned the ball over, and Daly’s great break and offload put Wade over.
Lozowski’s conversion brought the deficit back to three, but just as they had in the first 10 minutes Saints struck back as the contest entered its final 10. Wave after wave of runners took play deep into Wasps territory, and eventually the defenders ran out to give Ken Pisi the simple score.
That score was too much for Wasps to take, and two more scores from Ahsee Tuala not just took Saints past the 50-point margin but also gave Myler the chance to become the club’s record ever points scorer in the history of the Aviva Premiership, overtaking Paul Grayson.
SAINTS Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, North; Myler, Dickson; Corbisiero, Hartley (capt), Ma’afu, Lawes, C Day, Wood, Clark, Manoa
Reps - Haywood, A Waller, Denman, Dickinson, Fisher, Fotuali’i, Waldouck, Tuala
WASPS Miller; Wade, Daly, Downey, Tagicakibau; Lozowski, Simpson; Mullan (capt), Shervington, Cittadini, Cannon, Myall, Johnson, Young, Hughes
Reps - McIntyre, Swainston, Gaskell, Jackson, Thompson, Weepu, Hughes, Helu
REFEREE Craig Maxwell-Keys
4mins WASPS Try Wade Con Lozowski 0-7
9mins SAINTS Try North 5-7
12mins WASPS Pen Lozowski 5-10
18mins WASPS Try Wade Con Lozowski 5-17
28mins SAINTS Pen Myler 8-17
33mins WASPS Pen Lozowski 8-20
34mins SAINTS Try North 13-20
34mins WASPS Red card Hughes (dangerous play)
35mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Myler 20-20
39mins SAINTS Try Corbisiero Con Myler 27-20
HALF-TIME SAINTS 27 WASPS 20
42mins WASPS Pen Lozowski 27-23
55mins SAINTS Pen Myler 30-23
61mins SAINTS Pen Myler 33-23
63mins WASPS Miss pen Daly
67mins WASPS Try Wade Con Lozowski 33-30
70mins SAINTS Try K Pisi Con Myler 40-30
74mins SAINTS Try Tuala Con Myler 47-30
77mins SAINTS Try Tuala 52-30
FULL-TIME SAINTS 52 WASPS 30