Danny Cipriani, controversially omitted from England’s RBS 6 Nations side by Martin Johnson, kicked the three penalties which enabled Wasps to pull off a GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory against Northampton.
But Cipriani was eclipsed by Northampton’s exciting young England hopeful Ben Foden, who scored the only try of the match.
Foden, left out by Johnson for last weekend’s defeat by Wales after making his England debut as a replacement in the previous week’s Twickenham victory over Italy, took a pass from fly-half Stephen Myler to burst over in the left corner in the 55th minute.
But Myler had an off day with the boot, missing the conversion and three penalty attempts, and it cost Saints the chance of their first away Premiership victory of the season in a match they dominated for long periods.
Cipriani kicked Wasps into an early 6-0 lead with penalties in the fifth and 10th minutes and just failed to land another from inside his own half.
With both sides falling foul of referee Rob Debney and conceding a stream of penalties at rucks and scrums, the match was a stop-go error-strewn affair from the fifth minute front-row flare-up which handed Cipriani his opening penalty.
Northampton had the better of the opening half after Wasps’ former French international star Serge Betsen threatened with a powerful run down the middle but lacked the clinical finishing to turn their territorial advantage into points.
Heavyweight prop Soane Tonga’uiha burst through the Wasps defence but the attack came to grief when centre John Clarke knocked on.
Wasps stifled the next scoring chance by bundling Foden into touch near the right corner flag.
An error by Cipriani, whose drop-out following Myler’s second penalty miss flew straight into touch, handed Northampton the scrum which proved the launch pad for another attacking wave.
Left-wing Bruce Reihana and number eight Roger Wilson both made inroads before the Northampton pack lost possession as they attempted to drive over the Wasps try line.
Then a fumble by Clarke’s midfield partner James Downey – on the receiving end of an earlier big hit by his former Saints team-mate Mark Robinson, who joined Wasps last summer – ended another promising move before Myler put his third penalty attempt wide on the stroke of half-time.
Northampton continued to be the more enterprising side at the start of the second half, with Myler’s kick finding right wing Paul Diggin who was well tackled by the hard-working Robinson.
There was more tension between the front rows at the start of the second half when Northampton twice spurned penalty opportunities in favour of close-range scrums.
Despite the efforts of England’s second-choice hooker Dylan Hartley and winger Paul Diggin, who got within a couple of yards of the line, the well-drilled Wasps defence repelled the attacks.
But Northampton came again and finally made the breakthrough when Myler, having a good all-round game despite his place-kicking woes, released Foden on a run which breached the Wasps back line as he crossed in the left corner.
But Myler missed the chance to edge the visitors ahead as his conversion attempt floated wide.
Saints were denied a second try six minutes later when they were brought back for a forward pass after Reihana sent Clarke over down the left touchline.
Cipriani’s third penalty, from just inside the opposition half, put Wasps 9-5 ahead in the 65th minute but he missed another from a similar position two minutes later and then put one wide from the left touchline as Northampton’s effort finally ran out of steam.