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Bailey breaks leg as away nightmare continues
Northampton Saints 24, Wasps 6.
JAMES Bailey broke his leg on his Premiership debut as Wasps’ run without a win away from Adams Park increased.
The centre was stretchered off in the first half with Wasps having already conceded a try as they were outgunned by a more clinical Northampton side.
The visitors failed to make the most of their superior possession in the first half and ultimately tries either side of the break from James Wilson settled the game in Northampton’s favour.
On a night to forget for Wasps Tim Payne, making his 250th appearance for the club, was fortunate not to be sent off after an ugly flare-up on the stroke of half time, and the scoreline could have been worse had Stephen Myler not had something of an off day with the boot.
There were just five minutes on the clock when the unbeaten Saints launched a devastating counter attack to open the scoring. An ineffective punt downfield was easily gathered in by Wilson, who slipped through an attempted tackle and went over after playing a one-two with Ken Pisi for his maiden Saints try.
Myler missed the conversion and screwed a penalty wide as Joe Simpson was penalised for holding on while trying to make a quick getaway.
The fly half nailed a second penalty as Wasps were again punished for being ponderous at the breakdown. Prior to the try the visitors had dominated possession but not territory, struggling to break into the opposing half as Saints were able to pin them back despite the best efforts of Billy Vunipola in particular.
Nicky Robinson lofted a difficult penalty from the left touchline between the posts to haul Wasps back into contention. Speedster Christian Wade had got the move underway after bursting through a tackle, but after that initial effervescent burst the home side were again able to stop Wasps gaining further yardage without too many problems.
Then, with Bailey being carried off on a stretcher after fracturing his leg with barely quarter of the match played, it looked like it was going to be another of those days for Wasps.
But they caught and drove from a line-out, the driving maul drew a penalty and Robinson booted Wasps back to within two points as his side took points from their second foray deep into Northampton territory.
They were then able to repel a catch and drive from a ten metre line-out, turning over possession in the process, although Myler later landed another penalty as the match started to develop into something of a kicking contest.
Northampton were also failing to make serious inroads into Wasps territory as defences dominated. Samu Manoa looked to change things as he barged his way through the visiting backline, but the end result was the same: Wasps sinned, a penalty was awarded and Myler, having now found his kicking boots, made no mistake.
Wade’s chip and chase took Wasps deep into home territory but it was a rare flash of class and the half ended with Payne going into the sin bin for kneeing Vasily Artemyev just as his side were looking to break out of their half with Vunipola again leading the charge.
Myler horribly sliced the resulting penalty and the teams turned around with Saints 14-6 in front, but with Wasps having to play the first ten minutes of the second half a man light.
They stood up to that test superbly as firstly Pisi was held up in the corner then, when play was switched to the opposite wing, they were able to push back the Saints scrum and be given a free-kick of their own – an unexpected yet deserved bonus, having withstood some intense pressure.
Back came Saints and the giant Soane Tonga’uiha was stopped as he tried to wriggle free a matter of inches from the line, and Wasps’ fortunes looked to be turning as Northampton dropped the ball as they went over in the corner.
Payne returned from the bin with the scoreline unaltered but the pressure from the home side was starting to be cranked up.
Andrea Masi led by example with a thumping tackle but eventually Wasps could stand firm no more. Having repelled one attack on one side of the pitch they were unable to stop England man Courtney Lawes from bursting out of a tackle on the other and offloading to Wilson just in the nick of time, with the full-back touching down for his second try of the game. Myler kicked the extras to make it 21-6.
A cavalry charge of sorts promptly followed from Wasps but on two occasions the ball was dropped forward in promising positions as the black and golds again failed to use their possession to good effect.
Replacement Fabio Staibano lasted just ten minutes before he was forced back off through injury and with numerous handling errors undoing any good work Wasps managed it was inevitable the only addition to the score would go Northampton’s way, as Myler was successful with another penalty.
Late pressure on the home side's try line came to nothing - with the winless run away from home now being extended into a twelfth month.
Wasps: C Bell, Wade, Masi, T Bell, Bailey (sub Daly), Robinson (sub L Thomas), Simpson (sub Davies), Payne (sub McIntyre), Lindsay (sub TR Thomas), Taulafo (sub Staibano), Palmer, Wentzel (sub Cannon), Launchbury, Haskell, Vunipola (sub Jones).
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