Premiership: Wasps 26-20 Northampton Saints – Zach Kibirige and Dan Robson tries earn hosts derby spoils

Zach Kibirige
Zach Kibirige marked his 50th appearance for Wasps with their opening try
Wasps (10) 26
Tries: Kibirige, Robson Cons: Umaga 2 Pens: Umaga 2, Gopperth 2
Northampton (10) 20
Tries: Matavesi, Ludlam, Fish Con: Biggar Pen: Biggar

Wasps ended Northampton’s unbeaten start to the season with a 26-20 win in a pulsating derby at Coventry.

Sam Matavesi’s try put Saints ahead, but Zach Kibirige levelled before Dan Biggar and Jacob Umaga traded penalties as a tight first half ended 10-10.

Umaga booted Wasps ahead for the first time before Thomas Young’s offload put Dan Robson over to make it 20-10.

Lewis Ludlam cut the gap, but two Jimmy Gopperth penalties sealed the win despite James Fish’s last-gasp score.

Fish’s try at least gave Northampton a losing bonus point their first-half display warranted, but they ended the weekend in third, while Wasps’ second win from three this season moved them up to fifth.

Saints dominated territory and possession in a frantic end-to-end opening quarter, and were rewarded by Matavesi, sent clear by a fine line break and offload from number eight Juarno Augustus.

Yet Wasps were soon level with a try out of nothing, Gabriel Oghre’s dummy sending Dan Robson sprinting clear to allow Kibirige to mark his 50th Wasps appearance with a score.

The Wasps’ penalty count climbed, but they clawed their way back into the match and almost went ahead when Sam Spink was hauled down just short by Augustus.

As the game became punctuated by infringements and mistakes, Umaga cancelled out Biggar’s penalty and then missed a kick from 30m on the stroke of half-time.

Wasps then had Vaea Fifita’s spectacular 70m score ruled out by the television match official shortly after half-time. But Umaga kicked the hosts ahead and Robson, set up by good work from the forwards and a fine dummy-then-pass from Thomas Young, gave the hosts breathing space.

Oghre’s yellow card for a high tackle with 18 minutes left looked telling when Saints made it 20-15 from the resulting penalty as Ludlam finished off a line-out catch and drive.

But in a complete contrast to the first half, it was Saints who lost their discipline, allowing second-half replacement Gopperth to step off the bench and ping two quick penalties to open up an ultimately decisive lead.

Wasps’ day was marred with the last play of the game as lock James Gaskell was stretchered off with what looked a serious ankle injury having coming on as a second-half replacement.

Wasps head coach Lee Blackett told BBC Coventry and Warwickshire:

“There was a lot that wasn’t right out there, a lot that could be better, but I thought the control we showed at times was really pleasing.

“I’m pleased how we keep turning up defensively, it’s something we work hard on.

“Early on we were on the wrong side of the penalty count and that’s maybe why we were under pressure for the first 25 minutes, but when we started to get control of the penalty count – and the scrum was massive in that – we started to get control of the game.”

On an injury to James Gaskell: “I don’t think it’s a good sign when you hear they need the trauma kit immediately. It never looks good.

“I believe it’s his ankle, I don’t fully know at this moment in time. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see this as being a quick turnaround injury.”

Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd told BT Sport:

“The bit that’s been troubling us for the last two or three weeks came home to roost.

“We gave away so many dumb penalties that kept them in the game it was ridiculous so that discipline around the ruck area, around the maul area, around the tackle area ultimately killed us.

“We tried to keep the tempo up, they tried to slow it down for long periods, and we thought we might get some reward in the last 20 minutes, but it wasn’t to be.

“It’s about an accumulation of points, we are disappointed not to come away with four from here, but we’ve got a point, we’ve got a bye next week, and we’ll regroup for Worcester at home.”

Wasps: Watson; Kibirige, Spink, Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; Harris, Cruse, Scholtz, Fifita, Stooke, Shields (capt), Young, T Willis.

Replacements: Oghre, Hislop, Toomaga-Allen, Gaskell, Carr, Porter, Gopperth, Crossdale.

Sin-bin: Oghre (62 mins).

Northampton: Furbank; Freeman, Proctor, Dingwall, Sleightholme; Biggar, Mitchell; Auterac, Matavesi, Hill, Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Ludlam (capt), Augustus.

Replacements: Fish, Waller, Painter, Coles, Harrison, Lomani, Hutchinson, Moon.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU).

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