Northampton Saints 15 Wasps 20: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Tom Wood did his best to push Saints past Wasps but the away side won it (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Tom Wood did his best to push Saints past Wasps but the away side won it (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

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There was certainly a lot of head scratching at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday evening as supporters struggled to comprehend another Saints defeat.

For the second week running, Jim Mallinder’s men put in a powerful performance against a team hotly-tipped to be in the top four this season.

A week earlier, Saints had headed to Saracens and gone toe to toe with the double winners before Alex Waller’s sin-binning saw them surrender a 12-9 lead to suffer a defeat.

Saints had plenty of regrets after that game, wishing Waller had kept his discipline at the crucial moment.

But the rueful feeling created by the Allianz Park agony was nothing compared to this.

Because whereas at Saracens the game was largely even in terms of territory and possession until the second-half sin-binning, this was one-way traffic.

Harry Mallinder tried to get Saints over the line

Harry Mallinder tried to get Saints over the line

Time and time again, Saints swarmed all over Wasps, desperately searching for an opening.

But only twice could they find a way through a well-organised side, who have now won all four of their Premiership games this season.

Full credit to Wasps, they played what some would consider the perfect away game, soaking up waves of attack before striking on the break.

They were ruthless in their execution and, just as Bath had done on the opening day of the campaign, they took points from every possible opportunity.

Stephen Myler wanted to get Saints moving

Stephen Myler wanted to get Saints moving

In fact, they took points even when there didn’t appear to be anything on, with the first-half try, which began in their own 22, a case in point.

Danny Cipriani made it with a moment of magic in his own half before the move was finished by man of the match Jimmy Gopperth.

And then, in the second half, just after Saints had moved to a point behind a team down to 14 men after Nathan Hughes’ sin-binning, Wasps struck again.

This time it was Dan Robson with the piece of inspiration as his lightning-quick break opened the door and Josh Bassett raced through it.

Courtney Lawes was contained well by Wasps

Courtney Lawes was contained well by Wasps

Two sucker punches, two tries, four points for Wasps.

For Saints, it was an all too familiar feeling of what might have been and a bemusement that another game had got away from them.

They will know that champion teams win games when they are not playing well, not lose them when they are.

And they desperately need to kick-start their campaign with a win against Exeter Chiefs on Friday night.

There are certainly positives to take into that game, in the way Saints have controlled matches against a couple of the Premiership’s best teams.

But now performances, possession and territory need to be turned into points.

Ken Pisi saw his try disallowed

Ken Pisi saw his try disallowed

As Saints found out last season, losing games early in the campaign can come back to haunt you later on, and there is no doubt this club has the players to bounce back.

But hope and optimism needs to rapidly become reality to reward the fans who roared their team on once again on Saturday.

For long periods of the match, the excitement factor had returned, with supporters feeling Saints were starting to get their spark back.

George North and Louis Picamoles were too hot to handle at times, showing their star quality.

But, ultimately, the composure was lacking from the team as a whole and Wasps made the most of that profligacy.

Exeter will look to do the same, and the fixture list certainly doesn’t get any easier for Saints in the coming weeks.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

And we are about to find out just how tough Saints are.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Some tidy kicking from the full-back, who always looked to provide a spark and who had a decent game... 7

KEN PISI

Had the honour of leading the team out on his 100th appearance, but it wasn’t to be a happy hundred as he had a try disallowed and was yellow carded late on... 6

GEORGE PISI

Showed real desire and tried to power Saints over the line, but the cutting edge was lacking on a number of occasions... 6

HARRY MALLINDER

His movement caused Wasps plenty of problems during the first half, but the away side did well to scramble and stop Saints... 7

GEORGE NORTH

Scored Saints’ first try and was a real menace before the break as he popped up everywhere and looked at his elusive best, but saw less of the ball in the second half... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Missed a conversion early on and wasn’t as accurate as he’d have liked with a crossfield kick for North in the second half as Saints just failed with the final pass and finish... 6

NIC GROOM

Looked lively on his first start for Saints and his passing was crisp, even if a couple of his deliveries weren’t quite on the money... 7

ALEX WALLER

Was desperate to bounce back from his sin-binning at Saracens, but didn’t find favour with the referee again as he was penalised for obstruction and in the scrum... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

Produced a lovely grubber kick during the second half to put Saints on the front foot and he looked sharp... 7

KIERAN BROOKES

Put Elliot Daly on his backside with a huge carry and was often doing everything he could to bulldoze Wasps before being taken off... 7

COURTNEY LAWES

Has started the season strongly, but his athleticism and power couldn’t see off the away side, who stuck to him like a wasps at a picnic... 7

SAM DICKINSON

Came into the team in place of Michael Paterson and started well, but Wasps got to grips with his power game eventually... 6

TOM WOOD

Always gives everything he’s got and made plenty of tackles and carries as he tried to help his team break down a resilient Wasps side... 7

JAMIE GIBSON

Gave away one penalty in the first half, but was largely assured and never lets the team down... 6

LOUIS PICAMOLES

Soldiered on despite a knee injury and he was once again one of Saints’ stand-out performers, with his offloads helping to open things up in the build-up... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

MICHAEL PATERSON (for Dickinson 54)

Was eager to build on a big display against Saracens a week earlier, but unfortunately for the lock his late knock-on was to end in a rapid breakaway try for Wasps... 6

TEIMANA HARRISON (for Gibson 54)

So often has a huge influence for Saints but he came into the game at a time when Wasps were just starting to turn the tide in terms of possession and it was tough... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Jimmy Gopperth (Wasps)

Saints were left to rue missed chances

Saints were left to rue missed chances