Rugby Union: Humbled Saracens go missing in action

Saracens 17 Wasps 31
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A CRINGING afternoon at Vicarage Road. Saracens' passion for every entertainment gimmick under the sun - the rock, the rap, the dancing girls, the half-time competitions, the big-money giveaways - are all very well when the scoreboard tells the right story. However, when the only really important item, the team, is copping the mother of all shaftings out there on the pitch, all the extra-curricular activity is just a touch embarrassing.

Fortunately for the Premiership favourites, Tony Diprose and his black- shirted scriptwriters usually carry it off; only once, to Leicester last Christmas, had they shipped a serious game in front of their adoring Watford public. Yesterday, though, the pigeons came home to roost. Great flocks of them. Wasps, the nearest thing Sarries have to an old enemy, wiped the floor with Diprose, Pienaar and company and in the process, they put their own season back on the straight and narrow after last weekend's fumblings against Richmond.

Kenny Logan's opening try on five minutes gave no indication of the scale of the indignity about to be heaped on the home side but the sight of so accomplished a full-back as Gavin Johnson spoon-feeding the Scottish wing with his five points should, in retrospect, have set off a few alarm bells. There was the occasional flash of inspiration from the odd Saracen but by and large, the Diproses and Hills and Brackens and Penauds chose the same afternoon to go missing.

Wasps, meanwhile, turned up en bloc and could do nothing wrong. Intelligently prompted by Alex King and spearheaded by some rumbustious running from Rob Henderson, Simon Shaw and the outstanding Trevor Leota, they reached the break 21-10 ahead. King's 25th-minute strike was no more than he deserved and Clive Woodward, the England coach, will be intrigued by his new-found enthusiasm for the rough and tumble.

Henderson effectively wrapped things up as early as the 50th minute, capitalising on another barnstorming contribution from Leota to barrel over in the left corner, and Josh Lewsey showed burning pace to ice the cake at the opposite flag as the game moved into its final quarter.

Those who imagined that Saracens' hugely proficient disposal of Leicester a fortnight ago was mere confirmation of their title credentials can now spend the next few days having a rethink. Just at the moment, the Premiership is way up in the air - at a similar altitude, indeed, to that from which Saracens descended yesterday afternoon.

Saracens: Tries Daniel, Johnson; Conversions Johnson 2; Penalty Johnson. Wasps: Tries Logan, King, Henderson, Lewsey; Conversion Logan; Penalties Logan 3.

Saracens: G Johnson; M Singer, J Thomson, S Ravenscroft, B Daniel (K Chesney, 61); A Penaud, K Bracken; R Grau, G Chuter, P Wallace (A Olver, h-t), P Johns (T Coker, 61), D Grewcock, F Pienaar, A Diprose (capt), R Hill.

Wasps: J Lewsey; S Roiser, L Scrase, R Henderson, K Logan; A King, M Friday; D Molloy, T Leota, W Green, M Weedon (capt), S Shaw, L Dallaglio, J Worsley, F Rossigneux.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).