By Thomas Branston
Wasps retain hopes of a home semi-final as they scored late on in a thriller to beat Northampton Saints 32-30 in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.
Matt Mullan scored the decisive try at the death after Nathan Hughes’ initial battering run from a quickly-taken penalty.
Tries from Ben Foden, Alex Waller and George North gave Northampton a 18-13 half-time lead with Wasps trailing by five points, the hosts did score with Elliot Daly crossing over and Jimmy Gopperth adding eight points from his boot.
Christian Wade and Joe Simpson added crucial scores which was accompanied by Ahsee Tuala and Teimana Harrison scoring to give Saints a five point lead but Mullan got the decisive try with the clock going dead and Gopperth secured victory from his conversion.
Both sides went into the match with hopes on the line, for the hosts it was threats of losing a home playoff semi-final and for Northampton it was a last ditch attempt of securing a top four finish.
Saints began the game playing efficient rugby putting Wasps under mass amounts of pressure and were rewarded with a penalty but Stephen Myler drifted his effort wide.
Northampton continued to build and forced Wasps to make numerous mistakes and had the chance to take the lead again with Myler converting this time.
Wasps struggled to contain Saints in the early exchanges and with the hosts making mistake upon mistake, it was Northampton who capitalised with Foden racing clear from a Gopperth pass which was intercepted and Myler missed his kick from the touchline.
But the hosts responded quickly as Daly, who was being watched by Eddie Jones, found a gap and raced through to score and Gopperth added his conversion to cut the visitors lead.
However, Saints responded perfectly with Waller going over in the corner to reassemble the Saints’ lead and Myler again missed his conversion.
Gopperth managed to keep Wasps in the game as he slotted his kick through the posts with ease to reduce the score to three.
And the hosts continued to grow into the game with Wade’s thunderous pace and initiative helping the hosts win another penalty soon after and Gopperth converted an identical kick to his last one to tie the score.
Jim Mallinder’s men quickly rallied together to shock the hosts with a third score as North received the ball out wide to touch down in the corner and Myler missed his third conversion of the game.
Northampton took a 18-13 lead into the break and could have been further ahead but Wasps managed to keep them within touching distance.
Dai Young’s team talk proved influential as Wasps looked a different side in the early exchanges of the second period.
Wade scoring in the first three minutes to level the scoring, the wing wizard beautifully kicked a chip over the defensive line and collected to score and Gopperth converted to give Wasps the lead for the first time.
Wasps looked back to their best with Kurtley Beale and Le Roux causing havoc, but it was Simpson who stretched over after some good defensive work from Northampton and Gopperth missed his kick.
Saints responded well and added to the try-fest with Tuala going over from a five-metre scrum to earn Northampton the bonus-point and Myler missed his conversion to level the score.
Impressively Northampton quickly scored another with a turnover from a Wasps scrum in their own half.
Saints broke away down the field offloading at will and Api Ratuniyarawa got his pass off to Harrison who made no mistake in crashing his way through to score untouched and Myler converted.
Much to his blushes of dropping the ball over the line from Wasps’ Champions Cup defeat to Leinster last weekend, Le Roux believed he had scored shortly after Saitns had retaken the lead.
But the TMO had deemed that Joe Launchbury had obstructed Luther Burrell from making his way towards the tackle.
A let off for Saints, but Wasps didn’t take their foot off the pedal, they continued to bombard the Northampton 22.
It took until the 80th minute for Wasps to really assert their authority in the Saints 22, and after winning a second penalty in quick succession Jamie Gibson was shown a yellow.
The clock was dead and with a penalty, Hughes had to tap it and go and the number 8 crashed his way up to a metre of crossing the line.
The ball was recycled by the forwards quickly with Mullan crashing over to score with Referee Maxwell-Keys declaring the try much to a crackling roar of the Ricoh crowd.
Gopperth stepped up just 12 metres out to convert the winning points as Wasps secured the win in emphatic fashion.