Wasps pick up the bonus point victory at the Ricoh, with a host of club legends taking their final bow in front of a home crowd in black and yellow.
Photo credit: @WaspsRugby
Wasps and Saints started the day with vastly contrasting season standings. The former were fighting to ensure a semi-final spot while the latter set out with nothing more than their pride on the line and the desire to pick a win in tribute to fallen comrade Rob Horne.
Both teams executed their game plans well enough, Wasps using their trademark attacking skills in the wider channels while Saints marched up the field in a more direct manner, for the most part.
Each side entered the changing rooms at half-time with two tries apiece. Wasps can thank the passing skills of in-form Springbok duo Willi le Roux and Juan de Jongh, sending England wing pairing Christian Wade and Elliot Daly over in opposing corners.
Saints first try came from a brilliant piece of opportunism from a Bok of their own. No9 Cobus Reinach spotted the playmaker pairing of Danny Cipriani and Jimmy Gopperth at guard and bodyguard, nipping through the gap in true scrum-half fashion. Reinach linked up with England openside Teimana Harrison, showing his usual tenacity and determination to shake off the attentions of Thomas Young to sprint in from 20 metres out.
A half-time score of 21-17 to Wasps pays tribute to the quality of the two teams' execution, with Saints discipline standing as the only notable difference between the two.
A lack of intensity to Saints' first-half began to tell in the second 40, a leaky defensive performance that simply will not go unpunished by a dangerous Wasps backline. The first 23-minutes of the final half belonged to the home side, with Northampton conceding two tries from de Jongh and Wade.
The combination of Jimmy Gopperth and Danny Cipriani in midfield proved again to be exceptionally effective at drawing defenders and allowing their weapons out wide to get the outside shoulder and showcase their usual attacking prowess. The speed of Daly and Wade and the distribution and footwork of le Roux and de Jongh yet again tore another defence to pieces.
A spirited fightback after Saints boss Alan Gaffney rang the changes saw Jamie Gibson and Ben Foden lead their side from the front. While the former showed his usual levels of excellence to send replacement scrum-half Alex Mitchell over for the score, Foden's handling skills and execution under pressure were a standout, getting the pass away to put fullback Ahsee Tuala over in the corner.
A final scoreline of 36-29 may be slightly complimentary towards Saints, their performances during the first, second and fourth quarters were much improved from some torrid performances earlier in the season.
Wasps head into their final game of the regular season guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals. Saints may be leaving Coventry with a loss, but a try bonus point and a spirited fightback in the final 25 minutes will put them in good stead ahead of their rebuild under Chris Boyd next season.
Tries: Wade (2), Daly, de Jongh,
Conversions: Gopperth (2/4)
Penalties: Gopperth (3/3
Tries: Harrison, Ratuniyarawa, Mitchell, Tuala
Conversions: Myler (2/2) Grayson (1/2)
Penalties: Myler (1/1)
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