Sarries pile pressure on Wasps
February 27, 2011
Sarries pile pressure on Wasps
Saracens closed the gap on Aviva Premiership leaders Leicester to five points with a hard-fought 26-15 victory over Wasps at Adams Park on Sunday.
The home side were unable to provide interim director of rugby Leon Holden with a first win in charge and slipped to their fourth straight domestic defeat as a result of an early try to Sarries flanker Andy Saull and the boot of fullback Alex Goode, who finished with 21 points to his name in dismal conditions.
Saracens had never previously won at Adams Park and profited from three yellow cards to Wasps forwards, with Marty Veale, Tim Payne and John Hart all spending time in the bin. Fly-half Dave Walder kicked all of his side's points before being forced off in the second-half with a knee injury.
Saracens made a flying start and bagged the opening try inside two minutes, with Brad Barritt's superb take from a Richard Wigglesworth box kick opening the door for Saull to score in the corner. The South African-born centre comfortably beat Mark van Gisbergen to a hanging kick and timed his offload perfectly to Saull, who out-paced the covering Andy Powell in a race for the line.
Goode's conversion narrowly missed the target but the pendulum quickly swung further in the favour of the visitors as Veale saw yellow for a moment of madness. The Kiwi took exception to a high tackle on David Lemi by Hayden Smith and dived onto the Saracens second-rower, causing a reversal of the penalty and earning him 10 minutes on the sidelines.
A penalty against Wasps prop Ben Broster for playing the ball on the floor allowed Goode to extend Saracens' lead on 10 minutes and the fullback added a further three points five minutes later following a strong maul by the visiting pack.
Wasps hooker Tom Lindsay endured a nightmare opening at the lineout as Saracens ruled the air but his first safe throw, on 20 minutes, produced a good maul and a penalty for Walder to get his side on the board. A stroke of luck then produced a second three points for Wasps as Lemi's grubber drew a penalty against Goode, although the Wasps chasers were several yards offside before completing the turnover.
Saracens' Hayden Smith smashes the ball up © Getty Images
Goode spurned a chance to add a further three points to Saracens' total with half-time approaching but Walder did not slip up when handed his chances, landing two late kicks to snatch an unlikely lead following an offside call against Barritt and a huge scrum from his forwards.
Saracens enjoyed better territory at the beginning of the second period and duly regained the lead thanks to a penalty from Goode but Walder hit back immediately with a brilliant kick from just inside halfway after Saracens had been called up for offside.
The tit-for-tat exchange continued with Hart penalised for not binding at a scrum and Goode converted a simple kick on 48 minutes to take a two-point advantage. He then improved the lead to five with a perfect shot from the touchline six minutes later as Saracens settled into their rhythm.
Wasps lost a second player to the sin-bin minutes later as England loose-head Payne was given his marching orders for a lineout offence, Mouritz Botha being sent crashing to earth, and Goode added insult to injury with his fifth penalty.
The home side were then harshly reduced to 13 men as Hart was yellow-carded for kicking the ball away and Goode again stepped up to add three points to the visitors' lead. Sarries were then lucky to keep 15 men on the field as Botha blatantly steamed in at the side of a ruck five metres from his own line, but the officials remained unmoved beyond a penalty. Wasps opted for a scrum and lost the ball and while they mounted one last charge the Saracens defence slammed the door firmly shut for a vital win.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
After Brian O'Driscoll's emotional final Ireland appearance on home soil, and seeing the Six Nations boil down to a three-horse race, we bring you the Weekend in Pictures
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year