Seely plays safe

Northampton 19 Wasps 13
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The Independent Online
YOU can call this one the Great Escape, a try midway through the second half from Grant Seely turning what promised to be a wake into a celebration at Franklins Gardens yesterday as Northampton made a desperate late effort to stave off relegation.

Ian McGeechan, the Saints' director of rugby, had been making brave noises before this one, but mostly along the lines of:"If we do go down we could well win League Two undefeated next season."

Now the former Lions and Scotland coach may be forced to have a rethink after only the fifth victory by his side in a hitherto depressing League campaign.

The Saints now go to West Hartlepool on Saturday with fingers crossed. They need to win and Harlequins must lose at Gloucester to survive.

And there is another possible twist to the tale, too. Seely was standing in here in the middle of the back row for his captain Tim Rodber, who, together with Martin Bayfield, may now defy England's ruling over making any further appearances for their club before this summer's World Cup. "We will have to look closely at the situation," Rodber said.

Meanwhile, if you were looking for a clear illustration of the problems that have bedevilledSaints then this was the place to be. The hard-working pack - which again included the "retired" 39-year-old Gary Pearce, at prop - provided no shortage of possession. The trouble as ever though was that, Ian Hunter apart, behind the scrum there was absolutely no penetration. On the other hand, Wasps were not exactly going places.

All of which suited Northampton, who may have been going nowhere in a running sense but were picking up points quite nicely along the way with Paul Grayson kicking three goals in five attempts to one from Rob Andrew before the break.

When Grayson answered Andrew's penalty soon after the resumption, there was a huge cheer but it was nothing compared to the one that greeted Seely's try. The Saints had decided to run a penalty and the No8 plunged over by the right touchline.

The last moments, of course, were full of tension thanks to a simple converted try from the New Zealander Aaron James, who was making his League debut for Wasps.

Northampton: I Hunter; N Beal, R MacNaughton, M Allen, H Thornycroft; P Grayson, D Elkington (capt); M Volland, A Clarke, G Pearce, J Phillips, S Foale, P Walton, G Seely, B Pountney.

Wasps: J Ufton; S Hunter, N Greenstock, A James, P Hopley; R Andrew, S Bates, (capt); G Holmes, P Delaney, P Dunston, S Shortland, R Kinsey, M Greenwood, L Dallaglio, M White.

Referee: S Piercey (Goole).