Myler floors Wasps with last-gasp penalty

WASPS suffered last-minute agony again as Northampton Saints beat them 17-15 with the final kick of the match at Adams Park this afternoon.

Stephen Myler knocked over a controversial penalty in the the 80th minute to consign Dai Young's men to arguably their most painful defeat of the season.

The home team were a different outfit to the one which folded against Bath recently and, having stayed with Saints all game, fully deserved their lead when Joe Carlisle kicked them in front with 78 minutes gone.

But they couldn't hold on. Myler snatched it back at the death and Wasps, after probably their best display of the season, were left to rue three missed drop goals, three missed penalties and a few fantastic attacking platforms that broke apart beneath their feet.

Bath had given Wasps a real going over on this ground a few weeks ago, and a Northampton Saints squad able to include Dylan Hartley, Courtney Laws, Phil Dowson and Lee Dickson among their replacements threatened a similarly uncomfortable afternoon.

But with that sort of power to rise against them late in the game, Wasps knew they needed a fast start and for much of the opening half there was very little between the sides.

The teaming rain meant it was always going to be a faces-in-the-mud type of match, which would have suited Northampton just fine; their pack has handed out a few big beatings on this ground and after watching Wasps against Bath they might have fancied themselves for it again.

But the home forwards, perhaps still smarting from the Bath battering, were a different proposition this afternoon and met their opponents toe to toe.

The rolling maul was a Saints threat and the scrum was a pressure point, but by and large Wasps met muscle with muscle all over the pitch and as a result, and thanks to a finely-tuned kicking game, they had just about enough territory and possession to lead at half time.

The fact that they trailed 11-9 would have been a worry.

Elliot Daly kicked them into a 3-0 lead after five minutes after Luther Burrell was late on Andy Goode, and they held onto their lead when the TMO let them off the hook when they dropped the restart just moments later.

Burrell ran through to score, but the fourth official spotted Christian Day's tug on Daly and the try was rubbed out.

It was a notable let off, but Wasps were still under pressure and they buckled after 12 minutes when Saints kicked three successive penalties to the corner before Day was driven over from close range.

Stephen Myler missed the conversion, but the scale of the task facing Wasps became apparent shortly afterwards when they ground upfield to win a 5m scrum just left of central.

As field positions go, there isn't much better. But Wasps were pushed off the ball, Saints hacked clear and a minute later they were in Wasps' half, winning another penalty and stretching their lead to 8-3.

However, two Goode kicks after 24 and 32 minutes nudged his team back in front at 9-8, and although Myler had the last word of the half when he converted another scrum penalty into three points with 37 minutes played, Wasps should have reached the magical hour mark with a decent lead.

Despite playing against the conditions after the interval and then losing Goode to injury, they had their best spell of the match just after the turnaround and failing to score then went a long way to costing them the result.

Goode's replacement Carlisle was the focal point.

It was his break that set up Wasps on the Saints try line after 50 minutes, and just minutes later his cross chip nearly gave Will Helu a clear run to the line.

Neither attack led to points though. The first ended with a wayward Carlisle drop goal after the Wasps forwards had tried and failed to barge over from close range, and Helu fumbled the second just as it looked like he'd have a clear run to the line.

Instead, it was Saints who scored next when Myler kicked his side into a 14-9 lead after 59 minutes, and Wasps' hearts would have sunk further to see Hartley, Lawes, Dowson and Dickson all come on in quick succession.

At that stage it looked like game over. Wasps didn't have those reserves of strength and Saints might have expected to control the field, take another penalty or two and win it stress free.

Far from it though.

Joe Simpson, Phil Swainston, Guy Thompson and Tom Lindsay all came on for a final home push, and in the last ten minutes it was all Wasps.

Daly missed long-range penalties after 69 and 71 minutes, Saints captain Tom Wood was yellow carded for barging into Joe Launchbury and then, finally, with two minutes left, Carlisle released the pressure valve with a 78th minute kick between the uprights.

That made it 15-14, Wasps were in front and heading for their first win over Northampton in four years.

Or should have been.

A controversial scrum penalty at the death gave Myler the chance to break Wasps hearts and, not for the first time this season, the last minute was the hardest for the black and golds.

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