Rugby Union: Davies makes the difference

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The Independent Online
Wasps. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

Northampton. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

WHAT threatened to be the war of Baldwin's nose turned out to be a lively piece of action in which Rob Andrew and the evergreen Huw Davies secured the winning points for Wasps, who had lost the league leadership in their previous match after having a player sent off.

With the BBC's Rugby Special cameras present, for a while at Sudbury it looked as if armchair viewers would be watching a repeat of the Battle of Bath, where Fran Clough had received his marching orders. When Gavin Baldwin tangled with Francis Emeruwa in the opening minute, all hell appeared to be breaking loose.

Emeruwa is a back-row package that should come with a written warning and Baldwin, the square-headed Northampton prop who is certainly no saint, was still dripping claret at the finish. Emeruwa, whose upper body strength is quite something, does not take prisoners and neither did John Pearson, the referee.

David Matthews had dismissed Clough at the Rec when the centre reacted angrily following a clash with Jeremy Guscott, a decision the

Middlesex disciplinary committee treated with the derision it deserved by immediately reinstating the Wasps centre. On Saturday, Pearson kept his cool and cooled tempers all round.

'It's a physical contact game,' Rob Smith, the Wasps coach, said, 'and I think the referee handled it exceptionally well.' Once the dust had settled - though in another sense there was clouds of the stuff thanks to a bone-dry hard surface - Smith thought that this was 'one of the best games I've seen this season.'

It was indeed good entertainment as Wasps showed their determination to keep in the running in the Courage title stakes. They have to rely on a Bath slip-up, however, over the final two hurdles. 'We have just got to keep going and see what happens,' Smith said. A trip to Orrell comes next and there is a home Pilkington Cup semi-final against Harlequins before Wasps sign off in the league with a visit from Bristol.

It was in 1990 that Wasps snatched the championship on the last Saturday. Here, Smith said: 'It was important to get back into winning form again.' That they did was down to 15 points from the boot of Andrew and the efforts of the 34-year-old Davies in only his second league appearance of the season.

Davies came in for the injured Alan Buzza at full-back and was put away on the left by Clough on the half-hour for the Wasps try. He then got ahead of Ian Hunter in a kick and chase to deny the rather precious Saint, playing in only his fifth match of the season for Northampton and later to limp off with a hamstring strain, a try. 'He scored the winning try against London Scottish and a try here,' Smith said of Davies. 'What can you say?' How about, well done.

Wasps: Try Davies; Drop goal Andrew; Penalties Andrew 4. Northampton: Try MacNaughton, Ward; Conversion Beal.

Wasps: H Davies; P Hopley, F Clough, G Childs, C Oti; R Andrew, S Bates; G Holmes, K Dunn, J Probyn, R Kinsey, D Ryan (capt), F Emeruwa, M Greenwood, M White.

Northampton: I Hunter (B Ward, h-t); N Beal, F Packman, R MacNaughton, H Thorneycroft; J Steele, M Dawson; G Baldwin, J Olver (capt), G Pearce, J Etheridge, M Bayfield, P Walton, W Shelford, T Rodber.

Referee: J Pearson (Yarm, Cleveland).

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