Saracens 29 Wasps 40: Cipriani deepens Saracens' blushes

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The Independent Online

Danny Cipriani was the man of the moment again as Wasps' supporters streamed away from Vicarage Road yesterday.

The "boy wonder" put in as near-flawless a first-half performance as anyone could wish to see to help Wasps extend their winning streak in the Guinness Premiership to eight. The victory lifted them into third place in the table, closing in on a home draw in the play-offs.

As good as Wasps were in the opening 40 minutes, so Saracens, wearing unusual pink shirts in aid of a breast cancer charity, were poor. It was hardly ideal preparation for their Heineken Cup semi-final against Munster this weekend. They were not in the game in the first half, so the final scoreline was testament to the way they pulled themselves back into the match. In fact, had their No 10 been as accurate with his goal-kicking as was Cipriani then they would have finished with a losing bonus point. As it was, Glen Jackson had one of his rare off-days, missing four out of six attempts.

Alan Gaffney, Saracens' director of rugby, was not a happy man. "I would say that those first 40 minutes are the most embarrassing I've ever been involved in in rugby," he said, "and that is not because of the score, but just by the way we played."

Wasps could afford the luxury of giving away a soft try – the first of Francisco Leonelli's hat-trick, his second in three matches. That was in the third minute, but from the restart carelessness from the home side let in the Wasps hooker, Raphaël Ibanez, for the simplest of tries. More disorganisation by Saracens then saw Adam Powell's pass on his own line sail behind two team-mates, and all Tom Voyce had to do was pick up the ball and touch it down.

Then Cipriani took centre stage. He converted the first two tries and his quick-wittedness and stunning pass sent in Dominic Waldouck for the first of the centre's two scores in the 12th minute.

Nine minutes later Cipriani, who was in commanding form with hand and foot, used his eyes and his brain after the Saracens defence deserted their left flank. Cipriani looked up, spotted the lethal Paul Sackey completely free out on the Wasps right and sent over an inch-perfect cross kick which presented the England winger with another easy try.

There then followed a brief lull in the onslaught, which was hardly surprising since Wasps had earned a four-try bonus point in 17 minutes. Saracens hit back with Leonelli's second try before Wasps countered in added time, Cipriani producing a brilliant offload for Waldouck's second try.

When the Wasps scrum-half, Eoin Reddan, got his side off to a flier with a try six minutes into the second half it looked as if a rout was on, but Saracens had other ideas. As Wasps took their collective foot off the accelerator, so the home team hit back.

Leonelli completed his treble, then Richard Haughton was sent in by Powell to clinch a try-scoring bonus point and the captain and scrum-half, Neil de Kock, darted through two tackles to score the 11th try of the match. Jackson, who had converted the opening Saracens' five-pointer, managed to convert this last try as well.

Saracens: Tries Leonelli 3, Haughton, De Kock; Conversions Jackson 2. Wasps: Tries Ibanez, Voyce, Waldouck 2, Sackey, Reddan; Conversions Cipriani 5.

Saracens: R Haughton; F Leonelli, K Sorrell (R Penney, 66), A Powell, K Ratuvou; G Jackson (G Ross, 79), N de Kock (capt; M Rauluni, 79); N Lloyd, F Ongaro (M Cairns, 48), C Johnston (C Visagie, 23), H Vyvyan (I Fullarton, 54), T Ryder, P Gustard, D Barrell (D Seymour, 74), B Skirving.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen (R Hoadley, 35-ht); P Sackey, D Waldouck, J Lewsey, T Voyce; D Cipriani, E Reddan (M McMillan, 66); T Payne, R Ibanez (J Ward, 24), P Barnard (T French, 5; R Hoadley, 76), S Shaw, T Palmer (G Skivington, 74), J Worsley (D Leo, 55), T Rees, L Dallaglio (capt; J Haskell, 55).

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).