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Two-try Wilson sends Saints to summit

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Given the nine-try feast served up to the Franklin's Gardens faithful six days earlier, and Wasps' coming to town as Aviva Premiership Rugby's second highest points scorers, the 12,955 present - the largest home crowd of the season so far - would have been forgiven if they had been expecting fireworks on a dry night.


It certainly looked that way when James Wilson cruised over for a try with just five minutes on the clock. It was a spectacular score, but its genesis was in the pressure defence which forced the visitors back time and again.


Despite Wasps controlling the ball there was increasingly little they could do with it, and when Nicky Robinson was forced to kick infield it proved the catalyst for some clinical counter-attacking rugby from the top drawer.


Wilson fed Ken Pisi, whose jink and acceleration took him through the Wasps chasing line. Forty metres and one perfectly timed pass later Wilson was over the line for a memorable maiden try which raised the Gardens roof.


It was the start of a fantastic night for the full back, deservedly named Aviva man of the match by the ESPN commentating team. He marshalled those around him, repeatedly demonstrated his dexterity with the boot and showed his deceptive pace and intelligence with ball in hand.


A second try would follow for the New Zealander in the second half, but in the intervening 50 minutes Saints would have things far from their own way.


Stephen Myler had an uncharacteristically wayward day with the boot, taking until his third attempt to get his own points tally ticking over, and in the opening minutes of the second half had two gilt-edged try scoring opportunities go to waste.


Wasps were contributing to an entertaining and physical game. Andrea Masi - who had impressed in Biarritz's colours on his previous visit to Northampton in 2007 - had a good game in the centres, with Christian Wade looking as elusive as Billy Vunipola was powerful.


The young English duo were central to Wasps' attacking play, and both had central roles in creating Robinson's pair of first half penalties. However these scores sandwiched a massive blow for the visitors, who had debutant winger James Bailey stretchered off with a broken leg at the end of the opening quarter.


There was another setback when Tim Payne marked his 250th club appearance by being sin binned for some foul play on Vasily Artemyev right at the end of the half, and as the second half got underway it increasingly looked only a matter of time before the floodgates would open.


With the man advantage Saints headed upfield. Myler was pulling the strings, making the most of Lee Dickson's superb service and choosing his options well. Imaginative running angles were allied to power and quick recycling, and twice in the space of 10 minutes Saints came within metres of extending their lead.


Unfortunately Luther Burrell fumbled while switching the ball from one hand to another during a final fend on the charge to the whitewash. And then when Wilson forced a pass to Vasily Artemyev rather than go for the easier option of diving for the line himself it looked like it was the one that got away.


Indeed it also appeared like a change of tactic would pay dividend for the visitors. Although he had been dangerous whenever he had got the ball in the first half Wade had been largely unused. But in the second the winger hugged the right touchline and Wasps got the ball to him as quickly as possible to encourage him to make the most of the wide open spaces.


On a few occasions it came close to coming off. But as with the majority of the game Saints' defence held, with Courtney Lawes to the fore. Having admitted to the media during the week that his 80 minutes against Worcester had been hard work, he seemed right up to speed against Wasps, felling one visiting runner after another.


Masi was not to be out-done, putting in a massive hit of his own and setting the standard for his own team mates. But the defence was fractured five minutes before the hour as Saints hit their stride once more.


The hosts shrugged off the loss of Christian Day to not just win a lineout, but use it as the platform from which to build the attack which ultimately sealed the contest.


More power, pace and angled running took Saints into the red zone once again, and Burrell used his brawn and awareness to feed Wilson, whose strength in turn took him over the line.


Myler's conversion took the score out to 21-6, and Saints now had the game in a stranglehold. Nowhere was the difference between the teams more marked than in the scrum, where the arrival of Brian Mujati led to the visitors being subject to a "mincing", as ESPN commentator Nick Mullins put it.


One last run from Wade aside, Wasps looked increasingly devoid of ideas, and when Myler landed his fourth penalty nine minutes from time a fifth win from five matches had been sealed.


TIMELINE

5mins SAINTS Try Wilson 5-0

9mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

12mins SAINTS Pen Myler 8-0

15mins WASPS Pen Robinson 8-3

21mins WASPS Pen Robinson 8-6

26mins SAINTS Pen Myler 11-6

32mins SAINTS Pen Myler 14-6

40mins WASPS Yellow card Payne

40mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

HALF-TIME SAINTS 14 WASPS 6

55mins SAINTS Try Wilson Con Myler 21-6

71mins SAINTS Pen Myler 24-6

FULL-TIME SAINTS 24 WASPS 6