Sluggish restart for Saints as ruthless Wasps win at the Gardens

Alex Mitchell scored Saints' first try of the restartAlex Mitchell scored Saints' first try of the restart
Alex Mitchell scored Saints' first try of the restart
Saints failed to get off to the flying restart they wanted as ruthless Wasps won 34-21 at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday afternoon.

The away side claimed revenge for late heartbreak at the Ricoh Arena back in January as they secured a success built on breakdown brilliance and clinical finishing.

Saints were desperate to get back in action with a bang and to return to the Gallagher Premiership top four, which they had dropped out of over the weekend.

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But it was Wasps who moved into the play-off places, leapfrogging Chris Boyd's side in the process thanks to a double from Josh Bassett and efforts from Jack Willis and Ben Harris.

Sam Matavesi started at hookerSam Matavesi started at hooker
Sam Matavesi started at hooker

Saints, who have still not won in the league at the Gardens in 2020, twice had a man advantage after yellow cards for Malakai Fekitoa and Lima Sopoaga, but they often proved profligate in the opposition 22.

Alex Mitchell and David Ribbans did manage to find their way over the line, but it wasn't enough as Wasps' overall intensity won out.

Saints had been forced to make two changes before the game began as Harry Mallinder and Mike Haywood had to miss out.

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Mallinder was sidelined with a knee injury, while Haywood was absent and he was welcoming his second son into the world.

Dan Biggar was in action for SaintsDan Biggar was in action for Saints
Dan Biggar was in action for Saints

It meant Taqele Naiyaravoro and Sam Matavesi were handed starts, with James Fish and Tom Collins on the bench.

But despite the changes, Saints started brightly, winning a couple of penalties close to halfway, the second of which was slotted superbly by Dan Biggar.

But Biggar didn't fare so well soon after, sending a long clearance kick dead and Wasps used the resulting scrum in the Saints half superbly.

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Jacob Umaga delivered a tidy inside pass and Bassett's brilliant line allowed the wing to dot down for the first try of the game.

Josh Bassett scored for WaspsJosh Bassett scored for Wasps
Josh Bassett scored for Wasps

Jimmy Gopperth converted and there was immediately work to do for Saints, who responded quickly thanks to another Biggar penalty after a spell of pressure on the Wasps line.

But the away side were looking as bright as their yellow kit and it took a sensational try-saving tackle from Courtney Lawes to stop the onrushing Zach Kibirige scoring.

Still Wasps came though, and with gaps continuing to appear, impressive flanker Willis found his way over the line.

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Gopperth again added the extras and Wasps were not only impressing in attack, with their sharp defence forcing errors from Saints and shutting down space.

Jack Willis capped a fine performance with a tryJack Willis capped a fine performance with a try
Jack Willis capped a fine performance with a try

Fekitoa was the man causing many of the problems with his aggression, but he took it too far as he hit Fraser Dingwall high.

It looked like his shoulder made contact with the head of Dingwall and after Karl Dickson went to the TMO, a yellow card was dished out.

But Wasps continued to boss the breakdown battle, allowing them to relieve pressure with penalties at key times.

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The away side survived the sin bin period without conceding a single point, and they thought they had extended their lead after Fekitoa returned, only for Umaga's effort to be ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.

Biggar was trying to wake his team up with some impassioned speaking but Wasps would not budge, refusing to let them get anything going in attack.

Saints started the second half on the front foot and George Furbank was just beaten to the ball by the all-action Fekitoa in the in-goal area.

But Saints had their try after laying the foundation at the resulting scrum as Naiyaravoro powered forward and Mitchell picked up the scraps with a clever score.

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Biggar converted to cut the gap to just one point but Saints were under pressure almost immediately as Dan Robson's kick pinned them back and the ball was lost close to the line.

The Wasps forwards did the rest, powering forward and pushing prop Harris towards the line. Gopperth converted to make it 21-13.

And with penalties continuing to go against Saints, replacement Sopoaga stretched the Wasps lead to 11 points.

But Sopoaga was soon the villain as he produced a deliberate knock-on as Furbank tried to put Ahsee Tuala in out wide.

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And Saints took immediate advantage as lock Ribbans scored from a dominant forward drive.

Biggar missed to leave the deficit at six points, but he soon landed a penalty to cut it to three.

However, Sopoaga returned from the sin bin and notched a penalty to reward a lengthy spell of pressure in the Saints half for Wasps.

And as Saints tried to mount a late charge towards the Wasps line, they were stung by a stunning breakaway try, started by Thomas Young and finished by Bassett.

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Sopoaga converted to put the seal on a bonus-point win for the away side, leaving Saints down in sixth at the conclusion of their first weekend back in action.

Saints: Furbank; Tuala, Dingwall (Proctor 57), Francis, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Mitchell (Taylor 65); van Wyk (Hobbs-Awoyemi 60), Matavesi (Fish 47), Hill (Franks 47); Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa (Coles 66 (Tonks 75)); Lawes, Ludlam, Harrison (c).

Wasps: Minozzi (Sopoaga 48); Kibirige, Fekitoa, Gopperth (Mills 57), Bassett; Umaga, Robson; Harris, Taylor, Brookes (Toomaga-Allen 36); Launchbury (c), Rowlands (Gaskell 57); Willis, Young, Shields (Vailanu 70).

Referee: Karl Dickson

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