Rugby Union: Grayson's boot crushes Wasps

Northampton 18 Wasps 10
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The Independent Online
There is more than one way to swat a Wasp. Two weeks ago Harlequins spread it far and wide to inflict a record league defeat on the champions. Yesterday, Northampton, with Paul Grayson in masterly form, reverted to the order of the boot.

Northampton, with their captain Tim Rodber ably supported by a thoroughly combative pack, drove into Wasps with a will. Their efforts, concentrated around the much-praised Western Province prop, Garry Pagel, had recently accounted for London Irish and Richmond in away wins. Now they came home to inflict upon Wasps their fifth defeat in six league matches.

The rough and tumble in the early stages, as Northampton set up rucks in the Wasps 22, resembled Harrods Sale on a bad day. The result tended to be a penalty in favour of the home side and Grayson, in a rich vein of kicking form after 50 points in the last two matches, was in the mood to punish them. Grayson collected four penalties in the first half, and six in all, to take his record to 22 from 25 in this recent burst of Northampton's success.

No doubt Clive Woodward and Roger Uttley, England's coach and manager respectively, were impressed. Well received they were, too, by Northampton supporters accustomed to sending Jack Rowell the road atlas each Christmas with directions to their ground clearly marked.

The quota of England qualified players on view was above average for a Premiership match. One of these, Alex King, has had an ill-starred season so far, yet he kept Grayson on his toes with a couple of lovely breaks on the rare occasions that Wasps came up with quick line-out ball.

Where Grayson scored heavily - apart from the obvious - was in his touch- kicking. Those in the crowd who were close to the 22 at the Lake End in the first half got their money's worth as, time and again, Grayson kept his grateful pack galloping forward to the next line-out.

Pagel was watched by his friend Joel Stransky from a front-row seat and, more closely, by Wasps' returning prop Will Green. It is a pity that Green, after injuring his back on his England debut against Australia in mid- November, had to make his return against an in-form side.

Northampton held most of the aces in the scrums although at one scrummage in first-half injury time they got themselves in a twist and gave the Wasps full-back Gareth Rees a kick at goal. Rees sent it wide, as he had done seven minutes previously, when Wasps needed the points most.

Grayson opened the second half with a penalty for yet another Wasps indiscretion at a ruck. Rees found the target after 63 minutes but the champions continued to discover that, for all their strength in defence, they are missing the x-factor in attack.

Grayson's sixth penalty virtually settled it with 13 minutes left although a brief attack of the jitters was suffered by the Saints when the replacement scrum-half Mike Friday seized on an error by Jon Sleightholme for a try.

Northampton: J Bell; J Sleightholme, G Townsend, A Northey, B Cohen (H Thorneycroft, h-t); P Grayson, M Dawson (J Bramhall, 49); G Pagel, A Clarke, M Stewart, J Chandler, J Phillips, D Mackinnon, T Rodber (capt), B Pountney.

Wasps: G Rees; S Roiser, L Scrase, A James (P Sampson, 46), K Logan; A King, M Wood (M Friday, 68); D Molloy (A Black, 77), S Mitchell (T Leota, 60), W Green, D Cronin (A Reed, 60), S Shaw, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener, M White.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).