Wasps use swarming tactics to slay Saints

Northampton 9 Wasps 10
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Bemusement dominated Franklin's Gardens yesterday as Wasps secured a one-point victory despite having little of the ball and defending in their own 22 for much of the second half.

Bemusement dominated Franklin's Gardens yesterday as Wasps secured a one-point victory despite having little of the ball and defending in their own 22 for much of the second half.

They were helped by the referee, Ashley Rowden, who twice refused to punish professional fouls with a card, but their tackling was superb, organisation precise and determination resolute. Saints, however, will be stunned, although their head coach, Alan Solomons, described them as "technically inept. The authors of our own misfortune".

Gifted an early penalty by Matt Dawson, back at his old stamping ground after 13 years' service, they doubled the lead in the rain and looked to drive home their advantage with a score in the 38th minute. Dawson, slow to clear from a scrum, was snared by the arch-pilferer, Andrew Blowers and Wasps were forced into a rearguard action on their own line.

The dominant Saints pack inched to the line, but just when a score looked inevitable a yellow shirt drove into the side of the ruck, killed the ball and forced Rowden to give the penalty. He could, maybe should, have dismissed the interloper for 10 minutes; instead Wasps gratefully conceded three more points and accepted a nine-point deficit that they had reduced to six by half-time.

To demoralise Saints further the resumption brought sunshine and the only try of the match, Ed Thrower benefiting from a Peter Richards half-break. From floundering minutes earlier Wasps had a one-point advantage that they retained to the very end.

As an example of cunning and predatory instincts it was fantastic to watch; Wasps, as they proved last season, are like Leicester before them, in the business of winning, but for Saints it was galling. Especially as in the 48th minute a Mark Robinson break opened up the Wasps defence until another professional foul prevented Saints recycling the ball. This time Rowden had to summon a defender from the mêlée and a card but Wasps remained unscathed as Shane Drahm missed the kick at goal.

An error he repeated again and Saints never really looked like scoring. Resorting to drop-goal attempts, they even squandered a gift from James Brooks who kicked a 22 drop-out straight into touch.

The scrum, in front of the posts, offered a simple drop-goal chance but Robinson's pass was weak, Drahm stood too deep and Wasps swarmed over the fly-half, stole the ball and the points from a very valuable away fixture.

Northampton: B Reihana; J Rudd (B Cohen, 59), M Tucker, M Stcherbina (J Clarke, 64), W Human; S Drahm, M Robinson, T Smith, S Thompson, R Kempson, S Boome, M Lord (D Browne, 69), D Fox, A Blowers, C Krige (capt).

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; M Roberts (E Thrower, 41), P Richards, R Hoadley, T Voyce; A King (J Brooks, 65), M Dawson; A McKensie (H Nwume, 78), P Greening (T Leota, 69), T Payne, J Hart, R Birkett, J Worsley, L Dallaglio (capt), J O'Connor.

Referee: A Rowden.

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