Wasps book place in Premiership semifinals
PREMIERSHIP SUNDAY WRAP: Wasps booked their place in the Premiership semifinals in thrilling fashion as Christian Wade crossed twice in a 36-29 win over Northampton Saints.
After a tight first half, Wasps were able to pull away in the second, with Elliot Daly and Juan de Jongh also going over for Dai Young's side before resisting a Saints comeback.
And with Leicester Tigers having lost on Friday, Wasps are now assured of a place in the top four ahead of the next week's trip to fellow semifinalists Newcastle Falcons.
Meanwhile, Saracens ran in five unanswered second-half tries as they sealed a home semifinal with a comfortable 51-14 triumph against London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.
Irish, whose relegation was confirmed on Saturday, kept in touch with the visitors during a tight first half thanks to tries from Joe Cokanasiga and Johnny Williams.
Those scores came after Brad Barritt and Duncan Taylor had already crossed to give Saracens the lead, with Owen Farrell adding two penalties as they went into the break 16-14 ahead.
However, the Irish resistance buckled in the second half as Mike Rhodes and Marcelo Bosch touched down for the bonus point, before further tries from Richard Barrington, Alex Goode and Schalk Brits added gloss to the final result.
Wasps 36-29 Northampton Saints
Wasps made the perfect start when Christian Wade ran in his 11th try of the season after just four minutes. It started with a half-break from Jack Willis and after shifting the ball to the right, Danny Cipriani's perfect wide pass gave Wade the space he needed to race over.
Northampton responded immediately through a fine Teimana Harrison effort, but a Jimmy Gopperth penalty and Elliot Daly score had Wasps 15-7 up.
Against Saints fought back, with a try from Api Ratuniyarawa and they trailed17-21 at the break following further penalties from Gopperth and Stephen Myler.
Luther Burrell's yellow card for a trip early in the second half proved costly for Saints, with Wade getting his second before Juan De Jongh secured the bonus point before the hour.
Saints kept fighting and scored two more tries through Alex Mitchell and then Ahsee Tuala to get a four-try bonus point and back to within four points.
However, Gopperth eased the nerves with his fourth penalty and Wasps were able to see out the victory, despite a few nervy moments when a Josh Bassett try was disallowed.
Tries: Wade 2, Daly, De Jongh
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth 4
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Harrison, Ratuniyarawa, Mitchell, Tuala
Cons: Myler 2, Grayson
Yellow card: Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints, 42 - foul play, trip)
Wasps: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Guy Thompson, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Jack Willis, 5 Will Rowlands, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Simon McIntyre.
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 James Haskell, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Gaby Lovobalavu, 23 Josh Bassett.
Northampton: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ben Foden (captain), 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Piers Francis, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Mitch Eadie, 7 Teimana Harrison, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 James Craig, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Clare, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Heinrich Brüssow, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Tom Collins.
Referee: Matthew Carley
Assistant Referees: Anthony Woodthorpe & Greg Macdonald.
TMO: David Sainsbury.
London Irish 14-51 Saracens
It wasn’t until the 17th minute that Saracens got their first points on the scoreboard when Owen Farrell slotted a penalty after the visitors were unable to make the most of an advantage.
Saracens continued to pile on the pressure and it eventually paid off when Brad Barritt dotted down the first try of the afternoon, finding a way past Irish’s resilient defence.
Liam Williams raced down the right wing and attempted to find Duncan Taylor, but his pass popped up off an Irish player and Barritt pounced to collect the ball and dive over the whitewash.
The away side added a second try four minutes later when Farrell’s long looping pass found Taylor in space again and the outside centre strolled in for a simple score.
Irish were not going down without a fight, though, and they cut the deficit against the run of play as Bath-bound Joe Cokanasiga finished off a four-on-one move, with Greig Tonks adding the extras.
A second Farrell penalty extended Saracens’ lead again, but the hosts hit back on the stroke of half time when Williams scored under the posts and Tonks converted.
With Saracens only two points ahead at the break, they came out firing at the start of the second half and quickly had their third try as Michael Rhodes crashed over from a rolling maul.
The bonus-point try soon followed as Marcelo Bosch joined a driving maul and flopped over the line, before Farrell added a further two points with a precision kick.
Mark McCall’s side then began to turn on the style in the final 20 minutes – after Blair Cowan saw yellow – as Richard Barrington, Alex Goode and Schalk Brits all crossed the whitewash.
Saracens are now guaranteed to finish second behind leaders Exeter Chiefs, with either Wasps, Newcastle Falcons or Leicester Tigers set to be their opponents in the semi-finals.
They were also boosted by the return of Billy Vunipola, who came off the bench for his first match in three months after breaking his arm in a Champions Cup clash back in January.
For London Irish:
Tries: Cokanasiga, Williams
Cons: Tonks 2
Tries: Barritt, Taylor, Rhodes, Bosch, Barrington, Goode, Brits
Cons: Farrell 5
Pens: Farrell 2
Yellow cards: Josh McNally (London Irish, 10); Maro Itoje (Saracens, 5) Blair Cowan (London Irish, 70)
London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Jake Schatz, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Josh McNally, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 David Paice (captain), 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Josh Basham, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Luke McLean, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Duncan Taylor, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Michael Rhodes, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Marcelo Bosch.
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Hamish Smales & Philip Watters.
TMO: Davie Rose