Wasps will host Leicester in rugby’s new-found Midlands derby in the Premiership play-off semi-finals in two weeks’ time after the long-time league leaders put away a much-changed Saracens side with five tries in Coventry.
Flanker Thomas Young led the way with a hat-trick for Wasps, joined by Christian Wade whose 17th try of the season equalled Dominic Chapman’s 19-year-old record for the division.
There was a 15-minute delay to the kick-off to cram the 30,000-plus crowd in and the majority of them were highly delighted as Saracens suffered only their second loss in 13 meetings with Wasps.
It left the reigning champions in third place at the end of the regular season and heading for an away play-off with Exeter Chiefs in the other semi-final, also on 20 May.
An away semi-final has been won five times in play-off history and Saracens nabbed two of those, so they cannot be counted out of contention as they contest the last four for the eighth successive season.
Saracens knew a win would give them a home tie in the play-offs but they rested Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers, Maro Itoje and Richard Wigglesworth among a raft of leading players with an eye on being fresh and at full strength for next Saturday’s European Champions Cup final in Edinburgh.
Still this was by no means a second-string Saracens line-up, and the obdurate defence they produced to repel waves of attacks from Wasps – the league’s leading try scorers going into this weekend – suggested the club who had been top of the Premiership since round 12 at the New Year would not have it easy.
Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty had Wasps ahead but Wigglesworth’s scrum-half stand-in Ben Spencer caught the home side napping with a brilliant try a minute later, sniping through from a poorly-protected ruck.
Farrell’s understudy Alex Lozowski added the conversion, as the match settled into tit-for-tat scoring.
At the other end, Danny Cipriani sent a dainty grubber towards a three-man overlap which was finished by Young, and Gopperth, the Premiership’s top points scorer, converted for 8-7.
Lozowski skewed a drop at goal wide for Saracens, before Marcelo Bosch stepped up with one of his trademark monster penalties from inside his own half to retake the lead.
Kurtley Beale, one of Wasps’ all-star marquee signings since they moved to Coventry, had been throwing some very lively shapes, and one lavish show-and-go by the Australian maestro preceded the next score.
It led to Christian Wade chipping into space and being blocked off by Sean Maitland at the cost of a yellow card to Saracens’ Scotland wing, and a penalty goal for Gopperth.
Then with Sarries still a man short, another superstar back, Willie le Roux, passed flat for Young to grab his second try on the left, although Gopperth was annoyed with himself for missing the conversion after the Welsh back-rower – son of the Wasps boss, Dai Young – had worked hard to ground the ball 20 metres infield.
Trailing by six points at half-time, Saracens were relieved as Wade and Ashley Johnson butchered an obvious scoring chance.
Then Gopperth sent a 45-metre kick wide for another minor let-off.
But Wasps were not in the mood to fritter away the hard work of the last few months, and the arch-poacher Wade fell on a loose ball after some crazy ricochets to put 13 points between the teams.
Spencer grabbed his second try with a burrowing finish after brave driving by the Sarries forwards led by Schalk Burger but they were hurt by three successive turnovers in contact.
And Wasps pulled away with a dashing bonus-point try from a spilled ball by British & irish Lions squad member Elliot Daly on 70 minutes, followed by Young’s third score, three minutes from the end.
"It's massive for us as a club to get a home semi-final," said Young junior, whose club have not lost a match on this ground in the Premiership and Europe since December 2015. "We have been hard on ourselves all week and the training has probably been the best we have had all year.
"Hopefully Dad will smile tonight. Three tries for me, I'll take that, I'm happy with it.
"There's a rivalry with Leicester and it is hard to put into words how I'm feeling. We will enjoy tonight and come back in on Monday or Tuesday and get ready for that semi-final."
Wasps: tries: Young 3, Wade, Daly; conversions: Gopperth 2; penalties: Gopperth 2.
Saracens: tries: Spencer 2; conversion: Lozowski; penalty: Bosch .
Wasps: K Beale; C Wade, E Daly, J Gopperth, W le Roux; D Cipriani, J Simpson; M Mullan, T Taylor, J Cooper-Woolley, J Launchbury (capt), M Symons, J Haskell, T Young, N Hughes.
Replacements: A Johnson, S McIntyre, P Swainston, K Myall, G Thompson, D Robson, A Leiua, J Bassett.
Saracens: C Wyles; M Ellery, M Bosch, N Tompkins, S Maitland; A Lozowski, B Spencer; T Lamositele, S Brits (capt), V Koch, J Hamilton, G Kruis, M Rhodes, J Wray, S Burger.
Replacements: J George, R Barrington, P du Plessis, N Isiekwe, K Brown, H Taylor, A Goode, N Earle.
Referee: W Barnes (RFU)
Official attendance 30,115.Reuse content