Northampton Saints went down 27-16 to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena as the Coventry outfit pulled away in the second half on Sunday.
The hosts held a slender 17-16 lead at the interval, with Fraser Dingwall’s try and three Dan Biggar penalties keeping Saints in touch after Josh Bassett and Juan de Jongh both scored for Wasps.
But Northampton could not trouble the scorers in the second half as Wasps pulled away thanks to Willie le Roux’s try in the corner.
💬 “I’ve been coaching for 30 years and I’ve never worked it out - the mind is a wonderful thing but we just couldn’t get up for that game, which is bloody disappointing.”— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) January 6, 2019
Chris Boyd on the challenge of Saints consistently producing their A-game after defeat at Wasps pic.twitter.com/wgK20qZWV4
In a nip-and-tuck opening quarter of an hour, Saints enjoyed the lion’s share of territory and possession but did not secure any points for their troubles.
Luther Burrell came so close to streaking clear in the third minute off first-phase ball, but despite Northampton’s clever line-out move the big centre was halted in his tracks.
Wasps’ Elliot Daly however made a big break off a lineout, and Bassett went over in the corner for the home side as the ball came wide – Lima Sopoaga converting from the touchline.
Immediately from the restart however Burrell’s big tackle forced Michele Campagnaro into touch, and when Wasps were then penalised for not rolling away, Biggar made it 7-3 from 30 metres.
But when the ball bounced kindly for the hosts and De Jongh just beat Ahsee Tuala to Sopoaga’s grubber-kick through, the centre had the simple job of running in unchallenged.
The men in Black, Green and Gold came back strongly again shortly after however, as Cobus Reinach cut a superb line and timed his pass to Dingwall perfectly, and the 19-year-old cut inside Le Roux to touch down under the posts on 25 minutes.
Biggar’s routine conversion made it 14-10, but with Northampton pinged for not rolling away on 32 minutes, Sopoaga stretched Wasps’ lead back to seven points from slightly left of the posts.
Saints were back within touching distance not long after; No.10 Biggar landed two more penalties before the break, the second a long-range effort from just inside Wasps’ half – the fly-half’s longest kick of the season by three metres.
Wasps thought they had scored the first points of the second half when Thomas Young rumbled over the whitewash, but referee Luke Pearce and the TMO adjudged that Lewis Ludlam was taken out off the ball in the build-up.
Elliot Daly’s long-range penalty attempt from inside his own half then fell short, but Wasps were asking questions and scored the next try which proved decisive.
Reinach looked to have touched the ball down in-goal, but with Saints trying to offload the ball deep inside their own territory they were caught out, with Le Roux the benefactor.
Director of rugby Chris Boyd then rang the changes with six players replaced, including the whole of the front row, but the substitutes could not make the desired impact and Wasps landed another three points with 15 minutes remaining with Northampton penalised for going off their feet.
Despite good possession and building momentum, Saints just could not make things stick in the hands to trouble the scorers again – with Burrell desperately unlucky to fumble the ball on the line with a minute left on the clock to cap off a frustrating afternoon for the visitors.