Wasps got their GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP season off to a winning start with a hard-fought 21-19 victory over Saracens in the second game of the London Double Header.
It was not the prettiest of victories for Ian McGeechan’s men, but his side showed impressive determination in seeing off a dogged Saracens outfit.
Wasps scored tries through Ayoola Erinle and debutant Tom Palmer, while Dave Walder, also making his first start after signing from Newcastle, added 11 points from the boot. Ben Johnston scored Saracens’ only try.
Saracens will take plenty of heart from this performance, despite the result, and in openside Dave Seymour and fly-half Glen Jackson they have two players who should make sure they are at least competitive this season. Jackson produced a flawless kicking display with five kicks from five, and Seymour scrapped and scavenged superbly, but their efforts were not enough to stave off their more canny opponents.
After a bright start, the Sarries challenge fell away in the second half as Wasps’ superior forward power began to tell, but the bonus point is at least some consolation. In blustery conditions Wasps dominated the early exchanges in front of 51,960 fans at Twickenham. Paul Sackey went close in the fifth minute following a searing break from Fraser Waters which put the winger in space, but he was hauled down five metres short of the line.
Wasps opened the scoring in the ninth minute when Erinle, on as an early replacement for the injured Waters, crashed through some slip-shod defending from Alan Dickens and David Seymour. Walder’s conversion made it 7-0. Sarries’ response was swift and well-executed as Jackson redeemed his earlier error by slipping out of Walder’s tackle to feed the supporting Ben Johnston to score under the posts. Jackson added the conversion to make it 7-7.
Jackson put Sarries in front with a 50-metre penalty before Walder levelled proceedings with a well-struck kick of his own. The Saracens number 10 made it 13-10 with a 28th-minute penalty, but Wasps responded with a powerful rolling maul which saw second row Tom Palmer, making his debut after signing from Leeds in the summer, crash over for the try.
Dan Leo was sent to the sin-bin just before the break for a reckless challenge on Richard Haughton and Jackson’s penalty sent Saracens in 16-15 up at the break. Jackson’s fifth successful kick of the day put Sarries further ahead but as the weather closed in the quality of rugby inevitably suffered. A strong break by England international Josh Lewsey earned a penalty for Wasps and Walder did the honours to close the gap to a point as the game entered its final quarter.
The Wasps fly-half added his third penalty of the match moments later to edge his side in front as his side began to take control of proceedings, using the wind intelligently to pin Saracens deep in their own half.
Sarries fought all the way to the end but were unable to gain field position as Wasps ran out deserved winners.