Northampton's first win of the season was a patchy affair but no less welcome for that. Saints' clinching try in added time by a 19-year-old debutant wing, John Clarke, was greeted ecstatically by a Franklin's Gardens crowd who had feared the worst at the hands of the reigning champions.
Wasps had the chance to salvage a bonus point, but failed even to manage that when Mark van Gisbergen pushed a 40-metre penalty wide of the right-hand post. A double-digit margin against them seemed a harsh verdict, but Northampton made the most of the comforts of home after a draw at Sale and defeat at Bath. Their Australian fly-half, Shane Drahm, collected 17 points from five penalties and the conversion of Bruce Reihana's first half try: a healthy dividend on Saints' investment in percentage rugby.
Wasps had easily the more effective back-line, but equally their line-out was a shambles. Trevor Leota is already bottom of the popularity league in his native Samoa, for refusing to go to the World Cup on financial grounds, and the barrel-shaped hooker was scraping around for a friend in High Wycombe last night, too, after being hauled off in the 38th minute.
Asked about the decision, Wasps' coach Warren Gatland, said: "I substituted him because he was crap, and so was the other bloke who came on." The "other bloke", Jonny Barrett, went to the sin-bin for killing the ball after 53 minutes, at which point Northampton moved ahead for the second and final time through Drahm's fourth penalty. "If guys want to take the law into their own hands," added Gatland, "they'll find themselves on the bench or not in the team." Straight-talking, these Kiwis, and indeed this whole match had an Antipodean accent, an upshot of each side losing four Englishmen and a Scot to World Cup duty.
Wasps rushed into a 10-point lead inside five minutes. Van Gisbergen kicked a penalty, then Martin Purdy won a line-out at full stretch and Ayoola Erinle charged through a yawning gap in Northampton's midfield. A wiggle of the hips by the Nigerian-born centre put Saints' full-back Nick Beal on his backside, and flanker Jonny O'Connor finished it off at the posts. Van Gisbergen converted.
Without injured back rowers Andrew Blowers and Budge Pountney, Saints knew they had to seize on any slip or pratfall. To Gatland's disgust, there were quite a few from Wasps. John Leslie, the home captain, drew a 10-metre advance on a penalty by clattering into the retreating Simon Shaw, and Drahm knocked the kick over from 30 metres. Then Erinle put in a shoulder charge on Beal which gave Drahm another three points from the 10-metre line.
Northampton took the lead for the first time with a try in the 27th minute. Leota was penalised for use of the boot, and Drahm went to touch. Another Aussie, Mark Connors, caught the line-out at the tail and after a brief drive Drahm launched a cross-kick wide to the left where Bruce Reihana, once of Waikato, breezed past John Rudd and Tom Voyce.
Tim Payne, Wasps' loose-head, reprised Leota's indiscretion and allowed Drahm to make it 16-10 at half-time. Wasps got back in front nine minutes after the break when Van Gisbergen and Erinle ate up the pristine turf and Peter Richards went over from the fringe of a ruck. Van Gisbergen converted, but when Barrett saw yellow Drahm made it 19-17 and added another penalty in the 70th minute.
Wasps' line-out was exposed in the dying seconds when Rob Hunter nicked Barrett's throw. Saints drove upfield and Clarke seized on Tom Voyce's fumble for the winning flourish.
Northampton: N Beal; J Clarke, C Hyndman, J Leslie (capt, M Tucker, 59), B Reihana; S Drahm, M Robinson (J Howard, 67); B Sturgess, D Richmond, R Morris (C Budgen, 63), M Lord, R Hunter, M Connors (G Seely, 77-78), M Soden (Seely, 80), D Fox.
Wasps: T Voyce; J Rudd, F Waters, A Erinle (M Denney, 75), S Roiser; M van Gisbergen, P Richards (R Howley, 67); T Payne, T Leota (J Barrett, 37), C Dowd (capt), S Shaw, M Purdy, P Volley, J Hart, J O'Connor (Leota, 57-67)
Referee: R Maybank (London).Reuse content