A late Teqele Naiyaravoro try saw Northampton Saints claim a dramatic 35-31 victory in eight try thriller.
Charlie Hynes reports from the Ricoh Arena.
💥 When you get big @TNaiyaravoro in this position, there really is only one outcome…
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) January 5, 2020
Northampton Saints win at the Ricoh Arena
A brace from Cobus Reinach and tries from Tiemana Harrison and Naiyaravoro held off the Wasps second half fightback after Tom Collins had received a red.
Wasps secured two vital bonus with tries from Marcus Watson, Jimmy Gopperth and Matteo Minozzi plus a penalty try which sees Wasps move up to ninth. Northampton remain second and within one point of leaders Exeter Chiefs.
Two well matched sides
The game started evenly with both defences holding out from early pressure. Physicality was high with the likes of Thibaud Flament and Teimana Harrison making strong ball carries which saw Wasps’ hero from last week Nizaam Carr picked up a knock but carried on.
Saints struck first through their star South African scrum-half Reinach after Dan Biggar cut through the black and gold defence to put in his nine with an easy two-on-one.
Thomas Young had Wasps’ first opportunity after stealing a loose lineout but was unable to keep a hold to dot down after his charging run.
The hosts came back at Saints with intent as they broke deep into the 22 but were unable to show the required clinical edge and had to settle for three points. However, Wasps managed to make a break through after All Black Malakai Fekitoa ripped the ball in contact and got his arms free to put speedster Watson in at the corner to take the lead. Umaga excellently added the extras.
The run of play continued to be frantic and it was Wales fly-half Biggar who was at the centre of the action again as he produced a superb miss pass to put Harrison in after a damaging break from Alex Waller.
Wasps requiring a comeback for the second week in a row
After Wasps displayed their comeback credentials last week at Ashton Gate, they would hope to recreate that in the second half but got off to the worst possible start. Dan Robson had his attempted clearing kick charged down by Saints flanker Tom Wood who dotted down to make it 21-10 to the visitors.
The visitors continued their charge as they camped on the Wasps line. They were held up twice by the home side before Reinach sniped his second of the game in the corner with advantage already their way.
The Coventry based side needed to find a moment of inspiration to ignite a potential comeback and a Thomas Young break put Wasps back where they wanted to play. Wasps now looked to their bench for a fresh edge and found it in Gopperth who dazzled with his feet to dive over to stay in the game.
Momentum appeared to have shifted with the hosts with the Zach Kibirige breaking down his wing to give inside as Robson gave a cheeky offload to Young who put Italian international Minozzi in to complete a try of the season contender.
An absolutely magical @WaspsRugby try! 😍
Matteo Minozzi finishes off a ridiculous counter-attack!
Popping the ball around for fun 🙌 pic.twitter.com/tr3B4agv9W
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 5, 2020
Collins sees red and late drama
Disaster struck for Saints once again as Tom Collins was outjumped by Umaga resulting in both players landing badly. Both players would leave the field, Umaga to be assessed, Collins sent off.
With 10 minutes to go, Saints were down to 13 as Reinach deliberately knocked on to prevent the score. However, after Matthew Carley went to his TMO to see if the knock on had abstructed a try which he appeared to, leading to a penalty try. It now stood at 31-28 in favour of the hosts. A Northampton Saints win was looking unlikely.
However, another turn was to come as Saints piled on the pressure to look to prove their play-off credentials. After ill-disciplined Wasps kept giving away penalties which resulted in Naiyaravoro crashing over from close range to break Wasps hearts.
Wasps’ clinical accuracy cost them as they gain another loss in what has been a tough season. Saints will have felt Wasps were a danger beforehand and will be happy to have secured the win to continue their hopes of play-offs for a second season in a row.
Northampton Saints win heading into Europe
Both sides turn to European duties next week as Wasps travel to Agen whilst Saints face Benetton Treviso in a bid to qualify for the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stages.
Main image credit:Embed from Getty Images