Wasps held off a stirring fightback from Northampton to get back to winning ways in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP.
Tony Hanks’ men lost their 100% record when they were defeated by London Irish last weekend but they raced into a 17-3 half-time lead here thanks to Danny Cipriani’s try and four Dave Walder penalties.
Northampton, overrun before the break, improved massively after it and they chipped away at their deficit through Shane Geraghty’s four penalties.
Walder’s drop-goal allowed Wasps to keep their noses in front but Bruce Reihana’s injury-time penalty earned a bonus point for Saints, who were camped in opposition territory late on.
Wasps’ victory, which puts them third, was marred by what could be a serious injury to substitute Lachlan Mitchell, who was carried off on a stretcher late on after appearing to be struck in the face tackling Chris Ashton.
Saints came into the match in a buoyant mood following resounding wins over Gloucester and Leeds but they were swept aside in the first half by the hosts, who dominated the set-piece and looked more dangerous in the loose.
Wasps also had a kicker in Walder who was in ruthless form. He kicked his first penalty in the fourth minute after Saints failed to retreat 10 yards at a penalty.
He followed that up with another, in the 18th minute, after Richard Birkett was hauled down in the air at a line-out and he booted his third eight minutes later to put his side 9-0 up.
Northampton were being picked off at the line-out on their own ball and Wasps were proving too powerful for them in the scrum.
The frustration of the Saints front row boiled over on the half-hour mark when there was a big dust-up after an aborted scrum. Wasps’ Phil Vickery came off worst in the free-for-all, the England prop being withdrawn from the pitch with blood pouring from his eye area.
After seeing Geraghty skew wide a long-distance penalty, Ben Jacobs should have scored Wasps’ first try when he ran onto fellow centre Dominic Waldouck’s pass along the line. The try-line was inviting, with Tom Varndell also free outside, but the Australian fumbled 10 metres out.
In the 37th minute, Walder slotted his fourth penalty of the match but he missed the conversion after Cipriani’s try.
The England fly-half, playing at full-back today, chased a speculative kick into space by the excellent Joe Simpson.
When Saints winger Ashton was deceived by the bounce, Cipriani steamed in to collect, breeze through Ashton’s attempted tackle and go over with an extravagant swallow dive.
Geraghty kicked a penalty in first-half injury-time to finally get Saints on the board, and in the 42nd minute Chris Mayor barged over the line but the try was disallowed for an earlier Phil Dowson knock-on.
The second half was much more evenly balanced and Wasps’ lead was whittled down further when Geraghty arrowed over a second penalty, in the 54th minute.
Geraghty’s third, booted over four minutes later, made it 17-9 to gave Saints further momentum and the fly-half was starting to boss the game after finally being given a platform to show his silky skills.
Walder was off target with a relatively simple penalty attempt in the 64th minute to keep the visitors in the hunt, but he did then land a neat drop goal.
Reihana, who made a host of searing breaks throughout the game, then broke free, but with Saints just five yards from the line the ball was knocked on and a golden chance was lost.
Another went begging when Geraghty hooked wide what should have been a simple penalty in the 75th minute but he was successful with one moments later to make it 20-12.
Reihana’s late long-range penalty brought Northampton to within five points but Wasps held on despite great late pressure from their opponents.
Mitchell’s injury, which came as he heroically tackled Ashton on the right flank, meant Wasps’ celebrations were slightly muted at the full-time whistle.