London Wasps’ loss of the trusty boot of Andy Goode proved decisive as Northampton edged to a dramatic victory in a largely disappointing Aviva Premiership game at Adams Park.
Wasps dominated the second half but Elliot Daly, kicking because Goode succumbed shortly after the restart to a leg injury he had suffered early in the game, missed three penalties. Then in the last minute Wasps were penalised at a scrum and Stephen Myler kicked his fourth penalty from wide out to secure a 17-15 victory.
Northampton did score the only try through Christian Day after 11 minutes from a line-out drive, but after turning round 11-9 behind and losing Goode, Wasps enjoyed their best spell of the match. Joe Carlisle, who had replaced Goode, made an immediate impact on the game with a fine 30-metre run, but he then wasted the best chance of turning the pressure into points when he mishit his drop goal attempt.
Northampton steadied the ship by bringing on Dylan Hartley and later Courtney Lawes, but still kicking was the difference between the sides. Myler landed a penalty and Carlisle replied to put Wasps within two points again. However Daly missed from 58-metres and failed again after Tom Wood had picked up a yellow card for a poor tackle on Joe Launchbury.
But with three minutes to play Carlisle kicked the penalty after a tip tackle by the rerplacement Glenn Dickson on Tom Palmer and Wasps were ahead. Myler, though, had the last word to keep Northampton in second place.
Bath won the battle of third and fourth, by dominating Harlequins physically and wrapping up a 14-3 victory at the Recreation Ground with a stunning try by Jonathan Joseph early in the second half.
The try was a beacon in a match that Bath had controlled by stifling Quins through the work of their back row of Francois Louw, Matt Garvey and Carl Fearns. Three penalties by the fly-half George Ford earned them a 9-3 half-time lead, with Nick Evans landing the only reply.
Then Joseph, who has already trained with the England Elite squad, produced his great moment out of the blue with Harlequins a man down while Charlie Walker was in the sin-bin. The England full-back, Mike Brown, was left clutching thin air as Joseph sped round him to the line.
Exeter enjoyed the taste of victory once again when they disposed of Newcastle 16-3 at Sandy Park.
The Chiefs rekindled their campaign for a place in the top six with a dominant performance in the first half, led by Gareth Steenson, the fly-half putting them 9-0 ahead with three penalties before Phil Godman pulled Falcons back with a penalty just before half-time.
It was encouraging for a side that had lost five successive matches in all competitions. Their victory was assured when Hayden Thomas produced the decisive moment 10 minutes into the second half. He dummied and found a gap to score the only try of the game, with Steenson converting.