England fly-half Owen Farrell stepped off the replacement’s bench at the break to inspire Saracens to a tight win over London Wasps and maintain his club’s 100 per cent start to the new season.
Alex Goode was played out of position at No.10 for the opening 40 minutes that saw just three points scored by Saracens as the home side failed to take advantage of an avalanche of first-half ball.
With Bath’s George Ford and Gloucester’s Freddie Burns breathing down Farrell’s neck for a starting berth with England during this autumn’s England internationals – the Saracens man put down a sizeable marker.
It took just five minutes of the second-half for Saracens to finally breach the London Wasps line following an explosive break from fit-again Will Fraser.
Despite knocking at the door for much of the second-half, Saracens made life difficult for themselves in the final quarter as Christian Wade brought London Wasps back to within five points of the hosts as he set up Chris Bell for a score.
But Farrell steadied Saracens when he was needed most, kicking three late penalties to give the home side some much-needed breathing space in the final minutes.
With the final play of the game London Wasps secured a deserved bonus point as Bell scored his second try of the game and Goode added the crucial conversion.
Wasps, fresh from their maiden victory of the season over Worcester last week that ended an 11-game losing sequence, welcomed Ed Jackson back from illness and handed Joe Carlisle a start over Andy Goode at fly-half.
For Saracens, director of rugby Mark McCall gave first starts of the campaign to Fraser and James Johnston in the pack, whilst Goode surprisingly filled the number 10 jersey over the rested Farrell.
It was England man, Goode, who then gave the home side the lead after five minutes, slotting a routine penalty from just outside the 22.
It was Wasps’ first visit to Allianz Park and the away side were under pressure from the first whistle.
The Adams Park club had lost each of their last three fixtures with Saracens and relied on some last ditch defence and handling errors to keep the home side at bay.
Chris Ashton posed the greatest threat to the Wasps try-line, looking dangerous when cutting in off his wing and almost breaking though on a number occasions.
The 26-year-old potentially saw the contest as a straight shoot-out between himself and opposite number Christian Wade for a starting spot in England’s autumn internationals.
Wasps struggled to get danger man Wade into the game in the first half and the task became tougher when England Saxon Kearnan Myall was shown a yellow card for an off-the-ball tackle on Fraser.
Goode failed to convert the resultant penalty and Saracens headed into half time with the slender 3-0 advantage.
Farrell’s arrival prompted a new-found attacking confidence from Saracens and they crossed the London Wasps try-line after only five minutes through Fraser – with Farrell brilliantly adding the extras.
Just a minute earlier Saracens, who have not lost at home in the regular season Quins beat them at Wembley in March 2012, had also wasted a further opportunity to extend their advantage when Goode missed with a 44th minute penalty at goal.
As much as Saracens will be pleased to take the points and maintain their winning run in the Aviva Premiership this season – boss Mark McCall will be disappointed with the number of attacking opportunities that were missed.
London Wasps got back into the game as Wade beat three men inside a five metre space and combined with England lock Joe Launchbury to send skipper Chris Bell over on 64 minutes – unfortunately Andy Goode missed the simplest of conversions.
The strength of the Saracens squad showed in the closing minutes as on top of introducing England international Farrell, giant prop Mako Vunipola and also former international Mouritz Botha stepped off the replacement’s bench.
Farrell extended their lead to 13-5 with a penalty on 68 minutes, while Goode’s poor kicking performance continued for Wasps as he missed another shot at goal soon after.
The England No.10 added two further late penalties to keep London Wasps at arm’s length, while wing Ashton was yellow carded late on for a deliberate knock-on when the visitors looked certain to score.
Wasps took full advantage of their numerical advantage with the last play of the game as Bell scored from a huge overlap and Goode made sure of the bonus point with a late conversion.