Shelford orders extra training as Saracens run out of ideas

Wasps 51 Saracens 23
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The Independent Online

The scoreline might give the impression that this was an exciting match, but the victory which lifted Wasps into fourth place in the Premiership table was a mess from start to finish.

The first half was not helped by a heavy shower that rendered the conditions tricky and reduced ball handling at times to a lottery, but the brief storm was not as bad as the shower on the pitch calling themselves players and allegedly entertaining the 8,517 crowd.

Mistakes were the order of the day, closely followed by penalties. If the two teams blew hot and cold, the referee, Ashley Rowden, just blew and blew and the players just kicked and kicked.

It was woefully poor fare from paid professionals for a paying public. If they had trained all week for this then they should get a day job. Many of the players were sporting black gloves, presumably to improve their hold on the ball, but Andy Goode and Kyran Bracken, among others, gave the lie to the efficacy of the artificial aid with some bad spills and revealed the item of kit for what it probably is – a fashion accessory and image enhancer.

Saracens' director of rugby, Wayne Shelford, promised an extra training session today, adding: "If they need to recover from this match they can do so after the session tomorrow." At least the home supporters had the consolation of five tries and a bonus point, as well as a slightly improved second-half Wasps performance, but there was still a lack of quality.

Apart from replacement wing John Rudd's well-worked touchdown there was little excitement to the build-up of the Wasps tries, four of which came after the interval. Josh Lewsey scored his from close range when he was standing in at scrum-half after Martyn Wood had been sent to the sin-bin, Craig Dowd bullied his way over for a couple more from a metre or so out and Lawrence Dallaglio's also arose from a five-metre scrum – the England back rower shouldering through the inadequate cover and using his immense strength to twist over.

Saracens' backs in particular seemed to spend most of the match taking three steps back and two forward. Kevin Sorrell's early try owed much to Goode's clever little grubber, but generally they were bereft of ideas. Saracens' second try was awarded to lock Johnny Marsters even though he appeared to be short of the line.

No one in the crowd realised at first that a try had been scored, it being assumed that the conversion was a penalty. It summed up the game.

Wasps: Tries Dowd 2, Lewsey, Dallaglio, Rudd. Conversions Logan, King, van Gisbergen 2. Penalties King 5, Logan.

Saracens: Tries Sorrell, Marsters. Conversions Goode 2. Penalties Goode 3.

Wasps: P Sampson; J Lewsey, S Abbott, M Denney, K Logan (J Rudd, 65); A King (M van Gisbergen 11-25 and 70), M Wood; C Dowd, P Greening (B Gotting, 74), W Green (D Molloy, 57), S Shaw, R Birkett (J Beardshaw, 65), J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), P Volley (M McCarthy, 70).

Saracens: T Castaignède (A Winnan, 57); T Shanklin, B Johnston (N Little, 63), K Sorrell, D O'Mahony; A Goode, K Bracken (capt; M Williams, 70); J Ross, M Cairns (J Parkes, 60-63), J Marsters, C Yandell, S Hooper, K Chesney, B Russell (R Peacey, 20), R Hill.

Referee: A Rowden (Thatcham).