Home Premiership 2017-18 Saracens beat Wasp in thriller

Saracens beat Wasp in thriller

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Saracens are within one game of regaining the Premiership following a dominant 57-33 semi-final win over a determined but error-ridden Wasps side at Allianz Park.

Having lost at this stage 12 months ago Mark McCall’s side were not about to let lightning strike twice and Alex Lozowski’s try after 94 seconds set the tone for the afternoon.

The country was immersed in royal traditions an hour or so away in Windsor and Saracens served up a performance befitting a king at Allianz Park.

Their worst run of form in half-a-century earlier this season now appears a distant memory. Defeat against Leinster in Dublin back in early April remains the last time they tasted a loss and they have averaged close to 40 points a game since.

Wasps did become the first side since that reverse in the Irish capital to score a second-half point against Saracens when Jake Cooper-Woolley bundled over to spark a minor comeback but the contest was effectively over by that time.

Lozowski got the ball rolling when he was the beneficiary of a lethargic Wasps defensive line that saw Owen Farrell waltz through and pop the ball inside. Operating at 13 Lozowski certainly gave Eddie Jones plenty to ponder as he began fist pumping 10 metres from the try line.

Sarries’ second wasn’t long in following with Maro Itoje going to within a matter of centimetres only to be stopped short. Prop Vincent Koch scored a phase later when he burrowed under.

The home side’s backline was enjoying a constant source of go-forward ball with the Vunipola brothers especially making metres with each passing step. Farrell kicked a further two penalties to average Saracens a point a minute with a quarter of the match gone.

In desperate need of a spark the visitors found it courtesy of their South African double act. Working the ball wide to eventually find Juan de Jongh, the centre rode the tackle before passing inside to the supporting Willie le Roux to dot down.

Despite their undeniable offence it was the Wasps defence that continued to be their Achilles heel and another Farrell penalty made it 23-5 at the interval.

Billy Vunipola was removed from the contest following his first start in four months; the replacement said to be tactical.

The second 40 followed suit to the first with Saracens scoring inside two minutes. Chris Wyles, on his last appearance home appearance, scored his side’s third of the afternoon when he dived over in the corner.

That pushed the gap out to 25 and Saracens could begin printing the Twickenham tickets, or so they thought. Wasps proceeded to score three of the game’s next four tries to continually ignite thoughts of a comeback.

First, Cooper-Woolley crashed over on a short ball from Dan Robson before Thomas Young finished off an excellent set-piece move shortly after. Le Roux got his second of the afternoon when he again ran a great support line, this time for Guy Thompson, to score in the corner.

Wasps’ quick flurry of tries had cut the gap to 10 points with the final quarter still to play. But yet again, intent on being their own worst enemy, Wasps failed to adequately exit and replacement Juan Figallo crashed over.

Wasps’ attacking talent meant that even a 17-point gap didn’t yet call for game over but they spurned several good territorial opportunities and were made to pay. With 10 minutes remaining, something from nothing was finished by Itoje after he fended off some weak tackles.

The north London crowd could be forgiven for questioning whether rugby had met basketball on Saturday afternoon, Christian Wade scoring a fifth try after an excellent line and offload by the Leicester Tigers-bound Thompson.

Ben Spencer scored the 11th and final try of a record setting semi-final when Wyles passed inside to send the replacement scrum-half over unchallenged. An advert for defensive master classes it certainly was not but, for the Premiership and attacking rugby, it was everything and more.

Saracens, deservedly, won a classic. The sensational Farrell and company have a chance for a third title in four years.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Lozowski, Koch, Wyles, Figallo, Itoje, Spencer
Cons: Farrell 6
Pens: Farrell 5

For Wasps:
Tries: Le Roux 2, Cooper-Woolley, Young, Wade
Cons: Gopperth 2, Cipriani 2

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