Saracens too good for Wasps
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Saracens returned to winning ways in Premiership Rugby as they held off spirited Wasps 31-14.
A trio of first-half scores from Ben Spencer, Liam Williams and Will Skelton saw Mark McCall’s men edge closer to grabbing a prize home semi-final on the road to Twickenham on June.
The visitors were forced into two late changes to their pack – a resounding reminder of their depth coming in the replacement of Mako Vunipola and Mike Rhodes with Richard Barrington and Will Skelton.
And Mark McCall’s men wasted no time in imposing themselves, surging into a fourth-minute lead when Spencer telegraphed Joe Simpson’s pass and hared home from 50 metres.
Owen Farrell added the extras, and then stroked over a penalty to make it 10-0.
Just as Wasps began to gain a foothold through the effervescent Marcus Watson, Sarries hit back and Alex Goode broke to give Liam Williams a simple finish in the corner.
Dai Young’s side bit back on 23 minutes, Simpson atoned for his earlier slip with a crucial charge-down and good work from Kearnan Myall allowed Lima Sopoaga to dive over from close range.
The contest had a wonderful ebb and flow and it wasn’t long before the league leaders toasted a third try, Spencer switching play at the base of a ruck to send Skelton rumbling 30 yards to the posts.
Farrell’s conversion made it 25-7 and the reigning champions weren’t finished there, the England fly-half kicking a further three points after Wasps were adjudged offside.
The hosts threw the kitchen sink at it in the early stages of the second half but a turnover from Maro Itoje and a pair of costly errors saw them cough up the ball and sacrifice territory.
Another offside infringement gave Farrell the chance to land his fourth penalty on the hour mark.
The return of Jimmy Gopperth from eight months out injured warmed the hearts of the Ricoh crowd and they were off their feet again when Nathan Hughes muscled his way over.
Sopaga nailed the conversion to make it 31-14 but there were no late nerves for Saracens who held out for a commanding win.
Tries: Sopoaga, Hughes
Tries: Spencer, Williams, Skelton
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 4
Yellow card: Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 66)
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Marcus Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Gaby Lovobalavu, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Joe Simpson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Will Rowlands, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Ashley Johnson (captain), 1 Zurabi Zhvania
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Craig Hampson, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Juan de Jongh
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Liam Williams, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Calum Clark, 6 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Jamie George, 1 Richard Barrington
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Tom Whiteley, 22 Dom Morris, 23 Alex Lewington
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Paul Dix & Rob Warburton.
TMO: David Grashoff.