European champions Wasps suffered a World Cup backlash as they lost to London rivals Saracens in the second GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP double-header match at Twickenham.
Denied the services of 10 international players on international duty, Wasps were always chasing the game.
They mounted a late rally but tries from lock Hugh Vyvyan, centre Adam Powell and scrum-half Neil de Kock ensured that Saracens made a winning start.
Former Scotland fly-half Gordon Ross, signed from French side Castres during the summer, marked his GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP debut for Saracens with a 14-point haul, kicking four penalties and a conversion.
Youngsters James Haskell and Danny Cipriani, who narrowly missed out on World Cup selection when England coach Brian Ashton made the final cut to reduce his squad to 30, were the picks of the Wasps side.
Haskell, the 22-year-old No 8, battled manfully throughout while the main attacking threat for the Heineken Cup holders came from speedy 19-year-old full-back Cipriani who also contributed a 100% goal-kicking performance with five successes from five attempts.
Saracens capitalised on a shaky start by Wasps to open up a 16-9 half-time lead.
The wayward throwing of Wasps’ new hooker James Buckland, signed from Leicester Tigers, allowed Sarries to steal the first two Wasps line-outs.
Prompted by Ross – the stand-in for last season’s prolific points scorer Glen Jackson, out for three months with a broken collarbone – Saracens made their early pressure pay off, driving Vyvyan over for their opening try in the 17th minute and then creating the space for Powell to cross in the 28th.
Only a desperate last-ditch tackle by Haskell denied another Saracens newcomer, left-wing Francisco Leonelli, from Glasgow Warriors, another try.
Saracens even made light of the 10-minute absence of second-row man Tom Ryder, who was sent to the sin bin for scooping the ball out of a ruck.
Ross missed both first-half conversions but landed three penalties and only Cipriani’s three-penalty reply kept Wasps in contention at the interval.
The only first-half danger from Wasps came when the young full-back produced a burst of genuine pace to outrun the Saracens cover as he arced down the left before passing inside to Tom Voyce but the visitors snuffed out the opportunity.
Wasps introduced experienced prop forward Tim Payne, whose hopes of a place in England’s World Cup squad were wrecked by a knee injury which required reconstruction surgery, but they failed to turn the tide.
Their defence was badly exposed when De Kock celebrated his first league match as Saracens’ new captain by taking the ball from the base of ruck and jinking through the almost non-existent cover for their third try four minutes into the second half.
Wasps’ problems increased when they were temporarily reduced to 14 men after centre Fraser Waters was yellow-carded for blatantly handling the ball in a ruck in front of his own posts to present Ross with an easy penalty which stretched Saracens’ lead to 14 points.
Ross struck again with a 61st minute penalty but Wasps were handed a glimmer of hope when Saracens prop Tom Mercey joined Waters in the sin-bin with 15 minutes to go.
Replacement hooker Joe Ward reduced the arrears, forcing his way over for a 67th-minute try, converted by Cipriani, but even though Wasps threw everything into attack Saracens held out for a deserved victory.