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?
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

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back