Classy Wasps power past Saints
PREMIERSHIP SATURDAY WRAP: Wasps were victorious at Northampton Saints' Franklin's Gardens fortress, as Christian Wade and Josh Bassett led the way in an impressive display of attacking rugby.
Saints had not lost a Premiership game at home since March, but Wasps claimed a fifth successive victory over their Midlands rivals, proving the comeback is well and truly on for Dai Young's men.
Saracens moved back to the top of the Premiership table with a bonus point 44-13 win over London Irish as flyhalf Owen Farrell scored 19 points.
Mako Vunipola scored the only try of the first half but Farrell, Liam Williams and Chris Wyles ensured the try bonus point for the home side in front of a sold-out Allianz Park.
Replacement Nathan Earle dotted down twice late on with Irish's only consolation coming through skipper David Paice after a powerful driving maul.
Meanwhile, Danny Care inspired Harlequins to a bonus-point win over Worcester Warriors but they had to come from behind and then hang on in an 11-try thriller against the bottom side in the Premiership.
Northampton Saints 22-38 Wasps
The hosts led in the first half thanks to Ahsee Tuala, but a perplexing passage of play resulted in Christian Wade's try, giving Wasps the advantage.
The visitors emerged from the tunnel full of intent after the break and scores from Ashley Johnson, Josh Bassett and Juan de Jongh proved decisive.
Saints were first across the whitewash, they had been looming on the 22 for some time when Ben Foden broke away, timing his offload with perfect precision to send Tuala over in the corner.
Then in an extraordinary turn of events, Elliot Daly made an initial break but the ball was recovered by Tuala, who offloaded to Nafi Tuitavake for what looked like a certain score.
They had not reckoned with the power of Wade though, he regained possession and bypassed a scattered Saints defence to claim seven points — after converting his own try.
Bassett then added his name to the scoresheet as he took Joe Launchbury's offload and cut inside, dancing through two tackles to extend Wasps' lead.
De Jongh also enjoyed some help from his friends in the pack, as Johnson burst through the Saints line to create a gap, allowing the inside centre to go over under the posts.
Twelve points from Piers Francis, including an ambitious effort from just inside Wasps' half, kept Saints in it for much of the game and Harry Mallinder scored a breakaway try in the dying minutes, but it was not enough to close the gap.
Tries: Tuala, Mallinder
Pens: Francis 4
Tries: Wade, Johnson, Bassett, De Jongh
Cons: Wade, Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 4
Yellow card: Ben Foden (Saints, 38)
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden, 13 Nafi Tuitavake, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Tom Collins, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Tom Wood, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Mikey Haywood, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Christian Day, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Harry Mallinder, 23 Ken Pisi.
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Ashley Johnson, 1 Matt Mullan.
Replacements: 16 Antonio Harris, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 James Gaskell, 20 Jack Wills, 21 Matt Symons, 22 Joe Simpson, 23 Rob Miller.
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Simon McConnell
TMO: Geoff Warren
Saracens 44-13 London Irish
Irish flyhalf Tommy Bell gave the visitors an early lead but when Mako Vunipola burst through from 20 metres to dot down Saracens were 7-3 ahead after ten minutes.
Saracens controlled possession and territory, but Owen Farrell saw three penalties drift to the right of the posts with Bell reducing the deficit from the tee in a rare excursion into the hosts’ half.
England international Farrell eventually bisected the posts with 32 minutes played to move Saracens 10-6 ahead.
Irish second row Paulo Teofilo was shown a yellow in the final moments of the first half and Farrell punished the visitors soon after to make the score 13-6 at the break.
Farrell's try early in the second half maintained the home side’s momentum and despite David Paice's try from a rolling maul for Irish, Saracens soon had their bonus point.
First, Liam Williams finished a well-worked backs move to dot down and continue his impressive form before man of the match Andy Goode set up Chris Wyles for the bonus point score.
Fullback Goode chipped delicately over the Irish defence before collecting his kick and firing wide for Wyles to dive over in the corner.
Nathan Earle added a fifth as Wyles carved an excellent line through the Irish defence to set up the replacement with the 23-year-old then demonstrating his own power and pace to score in the final moments.
Tries: Vunipola, Farrell, Williams, Wyles, Earle 2
Cons: Farrell 4
Pens: Farrell 2
For London Irish:
Pens: Bell 2
Yellow card: Filo Paulo (London Irish, 39)
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Calum Clark, 5 George Kruis, 4 Nick Isiekwe, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Nathan Earle.
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Joe Cokamasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 James Marshall, 9 Ben Meehan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Josh McNally, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Jake Schatz, 20 Max Northcote-Green, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Theo Broohy, 23 Topsy Ojo.
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton & Roy Maybank
TMO: David Sainbury
Harlequins 41-35 Worcester Warriors
Marcus Smith’s early score had set Quins on their way but they were then caught cold by Jono Lance who set up three first-half tries for the Warriors at the Stoop – scored by David Denton, Perry Humphreys and Josh Adams.
But just before the interval Mat Luamanu got one back for Quins and they only trailed17-18 on the resumption.
After the break, Danny Care showed fine footballing skills to score his 50th career Premiership try and the England scrumhalf then set up Jamie Roberts for Quins' fourth that secured their bonus point.
Charlie Walker's excellent slaloming run wrapped up the victory, Quins' second in a row at home in the league.
But the Warriors – who were wasteful from the kicking tee – did at least leave with two bonus points after replacement Dean Hammond went over for a double and then Jack Singleton barrelled over late on to make it a nervy finish.
The hosts came roaring out of the blocks after a difficult European fortnight, and Smith had forced his way over from close range inside four minutes.
The flyhalf added the extras and the Stoop faithful would have been predicting a comfortable Saturday afternoon stroll against the league's bottom side.
But Worcester – whose last away league win was also here back in March 2016 – then threw off the shackles and caught the hosts on the hop.
Lance was the man pulling the strings from flyhalf, the recent Australian acquisition releasing David Denton for their first try in the left corner after Wynand Olivier’s initial break and offload.
Lance then weighted a perfect kick to the corner for Humphreys to go over in the right corner and while the former Western Force man missed both tough conversions, the Warriors were in front 10-7.
Smith slotted a penalty to then level the scores but that was cancelled out by Lance’s first points from the tee for a 13-10 lead.
And the Warriors were not done there in the first half, carving out a third try before the half hour mark when Lance's quick hands allowed Adams to juggle and score from close range.
Again Lance missed with the conversion and Quins hit back on half time, turning down a penalty to go to the corner and Luamanu bursting over.
Smith’s extras made it only 18-17 to the visitors and after the break Care produced a fine score, dribbling a loose ball over the try line before dotting down after Quins had disrupted a Worcester scrum.
Still the Warriors kept coming, and Jonny Arr was only denied his side's fourth by a superb Care covering tackle.
Arr departed injured soon after but Care went from strength to strength, backing up a clean break with a clever quick tap to let Roberts barge over down the left.
Quins now had the bonus point and Walker rubbed salt in the wound with a fine run from deep.
But Hammond gave the Warriors faithful a bonus point to take home to Sixways with his first and when he bagged a second and Singleton went over late on, replacement Tom Heathcote slotted the conversion to give them a second bonus point.
Tries: Smith, Luamana, Roberts, Care, Walker
Cons: Smith 5
Pens: Smith, Swiel
Tries: Denton, Humphreys, Adams, Hammond 2, Singleton
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Alofa Alofa, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Danny Care, 8 Mat Luamana, 7 Chris Robshaw, 6 James Chisholm, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Ben Glynn, 3 Will Collier, 2 Elia Elia, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Piper, 17 Lewis Boyce, 18 Josh McNulty, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Dino Lamb, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Harry Sloan.
Worcester: 15 Josh Adams, 14 Perry Humphreys, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tom Howe, 10 Jono Lance, 9 Jonny Arr, 8 David Denton, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Alafoti Faosiliva, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Gareth Milasinovich, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Jack Singleton, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Huw Taylor, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Tom Heathcote, 23 Dean Hammond.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Jonathan Healy & Nigel Carrick
TMO: Chris Catling