Northampton moved back into fourth position in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table with an emphatic 39-3 win over Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens.
The defeat for the visitors, who were also beaten 37-10 by the Saints at Adams Park earlier in the season, virtually extinguished any remaining hopes they had of reaching the play-offs. Northampton were strengthened by the return of their five England stars and they all impressed as the Saints sought to build momentum ahead of their crucial Heineken Cup quarter-final against Ulster in a fortnight’s time.
The hosts took a fourth-minute lead when Wasps were penalised for offside at a ruck in their own 22, allowing Stephen Myler to kick an easy penalty.
Wasps should have immediately responded when Dave Walder made a break through the home defence before feeding Steve Kefu. The centre was hauled down just short of the line by Paul Diggin but at the resulting scrum the Saints infringed and Walder tied the scores with a penalty.
Back came Northampton to score the first try of the game after 14 minutes. They secured possession in the visitors’ 22 and after some sustained pressure a clever pass from Dylan Hartley sent Brian Mujati over unopposed for the try which Myler converted with a splendid kick from the touchline.
Wasps lost Kefu through injury and Northampton had an opportunity for another try but an excellent tackle from Joe Simpson thwarted Chris Ashton. The Saints were not to be denied for long, though, as they were awarded a penalty try after a succession of scrums close to the visitors’ line.
The Wasps scrum was under pressure but the referee’s award seemed a harsh one. Myler’s conversion gave the Saints a 17-3 lead after 28 minutes.
The Saints continued to dominate the half in terms of possession and territory and effectively made the game safe with a try on the stroke of half-time. Ashton collected a loose ball and kicked ahead for Ben Foden to outpace Richard Haughton for the touchdown which Myler was unable to convert.
Wasps brought on Serge Betsen and James Cannon immediately after the break in an attempt to revive their fortunes. And there was some improvement in their play in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but it was Northampton who picked up the next score when Myler kicked another penalty before the outside half was replaced by Shane Geraghty.
Northampton should have scored their first try of the half but Ashton blew the opportunity by going it alone with men outside him but the wing eventually got over the line when another skilful pass from Hartley gave him an easy run in and Geraghty converted.
There was still time for Stuart Commins to pick up the Saints’ fifth try which Geraghty again converted.