A lady in the main stand summed it up: "That was a bit too close for my liking." The sentiment was understandable, but she ought to have been in raptures. Northampton's ability to carve victory from a match they might easily have lost has served them well against the likes of Bath, London Irish and Munster this season – and now Wasps. It is the hallmark of a good team.
Having captured the LV Anglo-Welsh Cup the week before – the first domestic trophy of note in the club's history – Northampton were not at full pelt but some of that was down to Wasps' eye-popping rush defence. Both clubs fancy themselves to do well in the Premiership play-offs; second-placed Northampton also have a Heineken Cup quarter-final away to Munster on Saturday week.
"There is a sense that if I can get through that I can get through anything," said Tom Rees, the Wasps captain after playing a full match on his return from 11 months out and two shoulder operations. The 25-year-old open-side flanker has filled in time growing his hair and thrashing an electric guitar, though with no apparent diminishment to his close-quarter skills. His place on England's summer tour to Australia and New Zealand is assured. Wasps' scrum-half, Joe Simpson, did the full 80-minute stint after a three-month lay-off.
With greater sharpness finishing tries off, Wasps would have prevented Northampton extending their run of home wins to 21. Instead the only try went to Saints' Roger Wilson just before half-time, and a dropped goal and penalty by Steve Myler in the last 11 minutes settled the outcome.
Paul Sackey, the Wasps wing, said: "We've been lacking our defensive style of late. With Tom Rees and a few of the other big guys coming back we have returned to our normal game. We've got it within us to have a big finish."
Saints are treating seriously reports that Soane Tonga'uiha has told Saracens he no longer wants to join them. The 19st prop has started 18 of Saints' last 19 fixtures, which have brought 17 wins and two defeats. "We'll have him if he wants to stay," said Northampton's director of rugby Jim Mallinder.
Scorers: Northampton Saints: Try Wilson; Penalties Reihana, Myler; Drop-goal Myler. London Wasps: Penalties Cipriani 2, Walder.
Northampton Saints: B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, B Reihana; S Geraghty (S Myler, 64), L Dickson (A Dickens, 46-54); S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley (capt; A Long, 40), B Mujati (E Murray, 47), C Lawes, J Kruger, M Easter, N Best, R Wilson.
London Wasps: M van Gisbergen (B Jacobs, 40); P Sackey (D Lemi, 73), D Waldouck, S Kefu (D Walder, 58), T Varndell; D Cipriani, J Simpson; T Payne (B Broster, 64), R Webber, Z Taulafo, D Ward-Smith, G Skivington, J Worsley (S Betsen, 68), T Rees (capt), J Hart.
Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).