Northampton Wanderers so nearly pulled off a sensational comeback in the final few minutes of an end-to-end encounter against Wasps, but ultimately fell to their second defeat of the Premiership Rugby Shield campaign.
The hosts secured two bonus points in defeat thanks to tries from Tom Emery, Matt Worley, Connor Tupai, Devante Onojaife and Karl Garside, and remain second in the Northern Conference – six points adrift of Newcastle Falcons.
Wasps took the lead in the third minute through Gabriel Oghre, who seized the ball from a lineout near the try line and found a gap in the maul to score, before Jacob Umaga added the extras.
The visitors then extended the lead to 12-0 shortly after when Joe Atkinson fed Kearnan Myall from a lineout, who set up Ross Neal for a burst down the left side.
Despite Ken Pisi’s last-ditch tackle the Wasps winger dotted down in the corner, although this time Umaga was off target with the conversion.
But Wandies hit back in style in the 22nd minute as Worley flew past a couple of Wasps defenders and found Emery, who took the scoreline to 5-12.
Wasps then extended their lead however; Callum Sirker broke down the middle and the ball eventually found Neal on the left side, who made his way around the Northampton defence and under the posts to allow Umaga to make it 19-5.
Wandies responded straight away again though, as from the restart No.8 Tui Uru charged forwards and found Worley on his shoulder, who skipped past the last man.
But Northampton had it all to do in the second half after Wasps once again scored to keep them at arm’s length; Sirker again caused problems for Wandies’ defence and exposed a gap to score under the posts, with Umaga’s third conversion seeing the sides into the sheds at 12-26.
The hosts got off to the perfect start after half-time, with Tupai catching Wasps’ defence off guard with a show and go from a lineout on the right to score.
Michael Le Bourgeois profited from a well-worked team move from Wasps to score again and take the scoreline to 31-17 with 30 minutes remaining, but from there on it was all Northampton.
First Andrew Kellaway set up Onojaife down the right to barrel over the try line and give the Franklin’s Gardens crowd something to cheer about, and the hosts smelled blood when Antonio Harris was sent to the sin bin with just over ten minutes remaining.
Wandies made their numerical advantage count in the 73rd minute, reducing Wasps’ lead to just two points when Karl Garside burrowed over from close range despite some resilient defending from the Coventry outfit, and guest player Robbie Povey added the extras to set up a tense finale.
The Franklin’s Gardens faithful roared on their side in the dying embers of the game but it was not to be for the Wandies, who suffered their second defeat in this year’s competition.
The side next take on Worcester Cavaliers at Sixways on Monday 1 April at 7.30pm.