Henson ends exile with some fancy footwork

Saracens 13 Wasps 6

Saracens climbed to second in the Premiership, and Gavin Henson ended his 21-month exile, in a Wembley "derby" yesterday that swung from shoddy to stunning. Henson, the Lions and Wales centre, entered the fray early in the second half, and nearly marked his comeback with a try. Saracens should have won by more.

Henson was like an excited teenager afterwards. "I really enjoyed it out there. I slipped a few tackles and wasn't affected by the pace," he said. "As for the try opportunity, I didn't know I was over the line, but the lad did get under me and I didn't ground it. I'm repeatedly asked about Wales, but now I need to make a start for Saracens, preferably at 12 or 10. I was at 13 out there, which means you sometimes see less of the ball so, hopefully, I'll be moved inside," Henson said. "Nothing changes in sport, you have to play well and selection follows. I have work to do but it does feel good right now."

After watching Owen Farrell miss the game's opening penalty, Joe Simpson elected to tap and go when Wasps were awarded their first six minutes in. His break across Sarries' defence attempted disruption, but they held their shape.

Farrell then missed a drop-goal attempt, followed by a penalty miss by Dave Walder as the game dragged into its second quarter devoid of points, or excitement for that matter.

Saracens had the edge up front, but with the veteran France open side Serge Betsen intimidating Farrell, their play-making department was not functioning properly.

The puzzle for the Wembley crowd was the substandard rugby being displayed by so many talented professionals. A case in point came on 32 minutes when Simpson threw a hopeful pass in-field, where hooker Tom Lindsay was about to be buried by a wave of tacklers. Lindsay saved the bloodshed by fumbling woefully before a hand could be laid upon him.

So when Farrell finally broke the deadlock with a penalty in front of the posts just before the half-time, the cheers were more in relief than celebration. The groans soon returned as Farrell stepped up for the kick only to shank it past the right-hand post.

Given the superiority of Saracens in the tight, the 3-0 interval scoreline highlighted their problems in the key decision-making zones. They cranked up the pressure after the break and were quickly rewarded. Ernst Joubert injected some pace into midfield, three further phases opened Wasps' back door and Neil de Kock showed his Test quality with an offload to young flanker Andy Saull, who virtually crawled over the line. Farrell's conversion was spot on.

And then Henson returned. Within two minutes he pounced on a Wasps scramble, but although he got over the line, Simpson did wonderfully well to prevent him touching down.

No sooner had Saracens taken apparent control of the game than Wasps battled back and reduced the arrears by six points with two quality penalties, struck firmly by Walder.

Saracens surged back with a searing break by Schalk Brits, which was halted only by a deliberate offside. Farrell kicked the resulting penalty.

Those who feared for Henson after his self-imposed exile and television activities need not have concerned themselves. He flattened tacklers, looked safe in possession and you sensed the hunger in a player delighted to be back where he belongs.

The hunger was also evident in Wasps' ranks, but their shambolic line-out proved so costly. On three occasions Walder kicked penalties deep into Saracens territory, and three times Saracens wrecked the resultant line-out, with the former England captain Steve Borthwick key to their expertise in that area.

Scorers: Saracens: Try Saull; Conversion Farrell; Penalty Farrell (2). Wasps: Penalties Walder (2).

Saracens C Wyles (Goode, 12); D Strettle, M Tagicakibau (Henson, 51), B Barritt, J Short; O Farrell, N de Kock (Wigglesworth, 64); D Carstens, S Brits, C Nieto (Du Plessis, 51), S Borthwick (capt), H Vyvyan (Smith, 51), K Brown (Saull, h-t), E Joubert, J Melck.

Wasps M van Gisbergen; T Varndell, B Jacobs (capt), S Kefu, D Lemi; D Walder, J Simpson (Berry, 63); Z Taulafo (Payne, 52), T Lindsay, B Broster, S Shaw, J Cannon (Veale, 70), J Worsley, A Powell, S Betsen.

Referee T Wigglesworth (Yorkshire).

Fan's golden foot rattles bar and Sarries' coffers

Saracens may begin to wonder if their Wembley extravaganzas are becoming just a tad too expensive. Victory over Wasps yesterday may have hauled them up to second in the table, but another face from the crowd stepped to wealth via their "Crossbar Challenge".

Last year an IT worker, Stuart Tinner, hit the crossbar at Wembley with a first attempt in bare feet, and walked away with £250,000. Yesterday it was 33-year-old Hertfordshire accounts director, Matthew Rouse, whose left-foot hoof towards the heavens landed smack on top of the bar.

Rouse, who admits his playing career was ordinary on a good day, revealed: "I was joking before I left the house that I might have a go at the challenge and come back rich. When I found myself on the pitch, the main emotion was terror. I just went for it. I'm taking my family to Disneyland where I can think about what to do with the rest of it."


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleComedian launches stinging attack on PM
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
Yoko Ono at the Royal Festival Hall for Double Fantasy Live
people'I wont let him destroy memory of John Lennon or The Beatles'
Could Greece leave the EU?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'