Stumbling Saints make the best of a bad job

Northampton 23 Wasps 10
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The Independent Online

The sight of a police helicop-ter alternately hovering and buzzing Franklin's Gardens late on in the game had one supporter pondering out loud whether they were looking for the culprits of the floodlight robbery that was taking place below them, where North-ampton and Wasps were contriving to produce a messy, shapeless match.

The good that either side did was too often buried under a welter of mistakes, many of them unforced. Neither side are in a healthy position in the Zurich Premiership, but it was not until very late in the game that Saints finally took charge and ensured that Wasps remain too close to the foot of the table for Nigel Melville's liking. In response to questions, the head Wasp said that he would "love to see" the former Ireland coach Warren Gatland join, but stressed: "I have not even talked to him about it".

Perhaps it was the cold, or the fact that they had given their all to new coach Wayne Smith; whatever it was, North-ampton made life difficult for themselves, conceding a soft early try, making appall-ing decisions and losing the ball in contact – twice when they were on or over the line.

It all added up to a frustrat-ing time for their supporters. The England wing Ben Cohen best summed up the sort of fare that a near-9,000 crowd was forced to watch.

First he chased a long kick, but when Wasps' right wing, Fraser Waters, gathered it a few metres from the try line, the left wing flung himself on to the defender and conceded a penalty. Handed a chance to make amends with a seemingly certain try, Cohen, slicing through at an angle, spilled the ball in contact when just short of the line. He was at fault again when through and chasing a fly-hack ahead – the ball remained tantalisingly at fingertip distance, but all Cohen did was to knock on.

With that sort of incident it was no surprise that when Northampton finally scored a try it came after another fumble, this time by Wasps' full-back, Josh Lewsey. It fell kindly for Saints' James Brooks to pounce in the 39th minute.

But Northampton had been trailing for half an hour after conceding a sharp try to Mark Denney, Wasps' captain, the centre opening up an angle after good work from outside- half Alex King, who added the conversion and a penalty. But thanks to Paul Grayson's two penalties, Saints had their noses in front at half-time.

That lead was extended chiefly by Grayson's last three penalties, and consolidated by Brooks' 71st-minute drop goal. It was Wasps who emerged stronger after the interval and made most of the running, but that also meant they made most of the mistakes. As hard as they pressed, bad luck, poor judgement and solid defending kept them at bay.

Northampton: P Grayson; N Beal, P Jorgensen, J Leslie (M Tucker, 9), B Cohen; J Brooks, D Malone (M Dawson, 35); T Smith, S Thompson (D Richmond, 78), M Stewart, J Phillips (A Newman, 59), O Brouzet, A Rennick, R Hunter (M Soden, 64), B Pountney (capt).

Wasps: J Lewsey; F Waters, S Abbott, M Denney (capt; L Scrase, HT), K Logan; A King, M Wood (M Friday, 45-54); C Dowd, P Greening (T Leota, 58), W Green, S Shaw, I Jones (J Beardshaw, HT), R Jenkins, M Lock, J Worsley.

Referee: A Rowden (Thatcham, Berks).