London Wasps 13 Saracens 22 match report: Wasps stung by Saracens' second-half comeback


adams park

These are the games that win championships. The days when opponents stick to you like glue, when your gameplan is compromised, when your kicker is off-colour but still the resolve is there to come through victorious.

With three games of the regular season left Saracens are 11 points clear of Harlequins in third and virtually guaranteed a home play-off in the semi-finals. Maybe they felt the hot breath of Leicester on their necks, but during the second half at Adams Park they took a grip on the game that Wasps could not shake.

It showed in every facet of play. In the first quarter Wasps started like a train, scoring 13 points in as many minutes, but thereafter their set-piece fell away and they conceded possession with alarming regularity. After next Friday's European date with Leinster they face games against Leicester, Exeter Chiefs and Sale Sharks in which to secure, at best, a top-six place and Heineken Cup qualification next season.

"We have got better at recovering from setbacks," Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, said. "We didn't panic, we hung in there and got points on the board.

"We were also able to take four or five of our main players out of the firing line and our bench made a huge difference."

That bench included Jacques Burger, Namibia's captain who had not played an elite game since the 2011 World Cup while recovering from a complex knee operation. By the time he replaced Jackson Wray Saracens had control of the match, if not the scoreboard, and the benefits of a trip to relax in Verbier during the week were beginning to show.

Had Wasps been able to replicate their first-quarter heroics after the interval, when they had similar territorial dominance, they might have been able to have at least nicked a losing bonus point. But not for nothing is the Saracens defence labelled the meanest in the Premiership, and the Wasps statisticians reckoned their players made 16 handling errors, a turnover rate which the best sides will always punish.

Elliot Daly, along with Joe Launchbury the star of the Wasps show, kicked two long penalties and Christian Wade snatched his 10th Premiership try of the season with a 60-metre interception of Charlie Hodgson's pass. But the seeds of Wasps' destruction came when they turned their backs on a Saracens penalty, expecting their opponents to wait while Neil de Kock received treatment; instead Alex Goode tapped the ball and sent Chris Wyles burrowing over for a try, the second time this season Wasps have been caught napping this way.

Having missed two kicks at goal (he missed another in the second half), Owen Farrell added a penalty before the interval and only a last-gasp steal by Launchbury stopped Mako Vunipola scoring when he was over the Wasps line. Saracens shrugged off the yellow card awarded to Mouritz Botha and finally found ways through the stubborn Wasps defence.

First Duncan Taylor broke clear, paving the way for another Farrell penalty, and though Saracens found instructive ways of spurning try-scoring chances, they edged ahead through Chris Ashton. The England wing has had his critics this season but here he worked hard in defence and, at the second attempt, touched down in the corner from Goode's grub-kick.

Farrell added two close-range penalties, the first against Zak Taulafo, whose offside play saw him occupy the sin-bin for the last 10 minutes, the second when the Wasps scrum collapsed on their own line.

It leaves the leaders well placed for next Saturday's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster at Twickenham, before they strive to cement their top-two Premiership place in the run-in against Worcester Warriors, Gloucester and Bath.

London Wasps E Daly; C Wade, A Masi (H Southwell, 75), C Bell, T Varndell; Stephen Jones (N Robinson, 56), J Simpson; Z Taulafo, T Lindsay (R Thomas, 52), P Swainston (W Taylor, 61), J Launchbury, M Wentzel (capt; Palmer, 56), A Johnson, B Vunipola (T Payne, 73), Sam Jones (J Poff, 64).

Saracens A Goode; C Ashton, J Tomkins (D Taylor, 53), O Farrell, C Wyles; C Hodgson, N de Kock (R Wigglesworth, 52); M Vunipola (R Gill, 67), J Smit (J George, 52), P du Plessis (C Nieto, 61), S Borthwick (capt), M Botha (G Kruis, 64), J Wray (J Burger, 61), E Joubert, W Fraser.

Referee M Fox (Leicestershire).

London Wasps

Try: Wade

Con: Jones

Pens: Daly 2


Tries: Wyles, Ashton

Pens: Farrell 4


Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
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

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine