Mitch Eadie’s try right at the death saw Northampton Saints surge to the top of Pool Three of the Premiership Rugby Cup with two rounds now complete, after a dramatic 15-14 win over Wasps.
An attritional first 40 minutes of the Ricoh Arena skirmish saw the hosts hold a slender 7-0 lead after Marcus Watson scored the only try of the half, with Saints defending heroically in the closing stages to keep Wasps at bay.
But even after Tom Willis doubled the lead for Wasps, Chris Boyd’s men did not throw in the towel. A James Grayson penalty and replacement Taqele Naiyaravoro’s try brought Saints back into the contest, before Eadie snatched the victory with the final play of the game.
Saints enjoyed some early territory, but squandered a decent opportunity to open the scoring when a lineout was lost after Grayson’s penalty found the corner.
The fly-half took a shot at the posts himself moments later, but the 20-year-old’s drop-goal attempt in the 11th minute just drifted off target.
And it was the hosts who were the first to trouble the scorers as a well-worked lineout move paid dividends and Watson was able to finish off the fluid attack – with Billy Searle adding the extras.
Saints were then slightly unlucky to concede a penalty after the bounce of the slippery ball deceived Grayson and Andrew Kellaway found himself offside, but after Wasps kicked to the corner it was skipper Jamie Gibson and Dom Barrow who defended the rolling maul brilliantly to force a turnover.
But the hosts continued to pile the pressure on as the clock ticked towards the red, and despite a number of penalties going against them close to their own line, the Northampton defence held firm and eventually won back the ball to close out the half.
Wasps finally made their pressure count just after the break however, with No.8 Willis sniping over from close range after his side built the phases to make it 14-0.
Grayson struck straight back from the tee however for Saints as Jake Cooper-Woolley went offside, and Boyd then began to ring the changes with Reece Marshall, Naiyaravoro, and Devante Onojaife entering the fray.
Charlie Davies and Kellaway combined well down the left to bring Saints right up the field, and slowly the momentum started to shift before Northampton brought themselves right back into the contest.
A sensational through-the-legs pass from Grayson created the space and Naiyaravoro finished with aplomb in the corner – although the visitors had to make do with just the five points as the fly-half’s conversion attempt slid agonisingly wide.
With ten minutes to play then Northampton trailed 14-8, and with Searle missing a long-range shot at goal they stayed within touching distance.
Josh Gillespie came on to become the youngest Saint in the professional era at 18 years and 15 days old, but it was the forwards that ultimately decided the contest in Northampton’s favour.
A couple of massive turnovers won at the scrum saw Saints move within five metres of the line, and their patience and persistence ultimately paid off as Eadie crashed over the whitewash under the posts – leaving Grayson the simple task of adding the extras and securing a one-point win.
Saints now sit four points clear at the top of Pool Three as the only side to have won both their games, and will travel to Gloucester Rugby next weekend looking to put one foot in the semi-finals of the competition.
Tickets to see Saints return to Gallagher Premiership action against Wasps are still available. Book your place from £36 adults and £16 juniors now by CLICKING HERE.