Charlie Hodgson's polished boot keeps Saracens in hunt after victory over Wasps

Saracens 29 Wasps 24

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The Independent Online

Charlie Hodgson was at his gun-slinging best, shooting down a revitalised Wasps in what was Saracens' first 'home' game of the season at Vicarage Road. Not that 'home' means much to a club who have now played on 14 different grounds since August, with more to come, while awaiting their permanent move to Copthall Stadium, north London, in February.

It certainly means nothing to former Lions and England fly-half Hodgson, whose right boot delivers wherever it is called into action. His seven penalties keep the former champions in title contention. However, Hodgson was last seen staggering towards the tunnel, between two helpers, after taking a hefty bang in the face.

"He's a bit groggy, and it didn't look very good. He's gone for a scan," said Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby. "But despite the fact we were a bit disappointing in the first half, we were better after the break and I am proud of the squad for their consistency over a 10-game period, where we have lost only once, away to Exeter."

A clattering, but far from illegal, 55th- minute tackle by James Haskell also left lock Alastair Hargreaves pole-axed. He eventually departed on a stretcher. Yet the forward was sitting among the replacements long before the end, joking with team-mates.

The Wasps rugby director, Dai Young, admitted he was frustrated, despite taking a point: "The spell just after half-time saw us guilty of silly mistakes that handed the initiative back to a team who are very organised. But we had to step up a level and we did. I'm just concerned with our penalties conceded at the breakdown."

Hodgson got the scoreboard moving with a fourth-minute penalty, but Wasps went one better with the game's first try two minutes later. Christian Wade found Hugo Southwell in midfield, and the full-back cut loose before passing left and releasing wing Tom Varndell, who scored unopposed. Then Nick Robinson arrowed over a drop-goal on the quarter-mark to ease Wasps further ahead.

However, with the former England captain Steve Borthwick commanding the line-out, the hosts gradually reeled in the points, with Hodgson kicking penalty goals in the 22nd and 24th minutes.

Saracens appeared to be taking control when Hargreaves scored an opportunist try in the 28th minute. The big lock charged down an attempted clearance kick by scrum-half Charlie Davies, thundered after it up the right and dived to touch down.

Unfortunately, Hargreaves smashed face-first into the hoarding behind the in-goal and went straight from being congratulated to the mandatory concussion off-field check.

Having been passed by the medics, Hargreaves returned only to be sent to the sin-bin minutes later for pulling back No 8 Billy Vunipola off the ball.

Saracens deserved their win, but missed the opportunity to dislodge Harlequins at the top by conceding a last-gasp try, scored by Davies and converted by Chris Bell.

Saracens: Try Hargreaves; Penalties Hodgson 7, Mordt. Wasps: Tries Varndell, Davies; Conversion Bell; Penalties Robinson 2; Drop goal Robinson.

Saracens C Wyles; D Strettle, J Tomkins, K Ratuvou, J Short; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth; M Stevens, S Brits, C Nieto, S Borthwick (capt), A Hargreaves, K Brown, E Joubert, A Saull.

Wasps H Southwell (captain); T Varndell, E Daly, C Bell, C Wade; N Robinson, C Davies; T Payne, T Rhys-Thomas, Z Taulafo, J Launchbury, M Wentzel, A Johnson, B Vunipola, J Haskell.

Referee JP Doyle (RFU).