Saints snatch narrow win
By Michael Wise
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Northampton scored an 8-6 Guinness Premiership win against Wasps at Franklin's Gardens.
Northampton's hectic Christmas schedule is off to a winning start, the Saints snatching a 8-6 victory against Wasps at a foggy Franklin's Gardens.
The victory, Northampton's first home win in the Guinness Premiership since September, was achieved in conditions that were never going to allow for many chances.
And it was the home side who were better capable of taking their opportunities, Daniel Browne's 53rd minute try proving the difference.
However, the outcome would have been different had Mark van Gisbergen been more adept with the boot - the full-back missing four chances, each of which would have been sufficient for victory.
Both sides sought to take advantage of the conditions, with van Gisbergen and opposite number Paul Diggin under particular pressure picking out the up-and-under.
Wasps made the better use of the tactic to gain territory in the first half, the London side looking the more confident as they kept Northampton in their own 22 for long periods.
But Northampton reversed the trend early in the second period, with van Gisbergen's poor aim proving ever more costly as the clock ticked down.
The first points of the night came after 10 minutes, with Saints fly-half Carlos Spencer aiming a penalty successfully through the gloom after the visitors were penalised for coming in from the side at a ruck.
Van Gisbergen had a chance to level five minutes later but his kick fell short, with Wasps' next attack reaping no reward when Alex King's drop goal also missed its target.
But, with Northampton penalised for being offside, van Gisbergen then found the posts to level halfway through the opening period.
Matthieu Bourret and Diggin then both missed the Garryowen, but Wasps failed to take advantage when King's pass to Dominic Waldouck was adjudged forward.
Northampton were again given offside in the 23rd minute, with van Gisbergen this time putting Wasps into a deserved lead.
And Saints' persistent infringements - flanker Paul Tupai being prominent - finally snapped the patience of referee David Rose in the 36th minute, with captain Steve Thompson sent to the sin bin for not rolling away.
Van Gisbergen proved unable to convert the resulting penalty, but seeking to exploit their man advantage, Wasps quickly pressed upon resumption of the second half.
But, with Thompson still off the field, back came the home side, with Spencer's cross-field kick preceding over 20 phases of rugby - most of them within yards of Wasps' line.
With the crowd behind them, Northampton's retention produced a penalty, with Wasps' Phil Vickery sin-binned for stamping just as Thompson returned.
The Saints now had the extra man, and despite Wasps' attempts to disrupt the scrum, Browne reacted the quickest to touch down after 53 minutes.
Spencer missed the conversion, with van Gisbergen missing a penalty that could have re-established Wasps in the lead five minutes later.
The visitors then conceded a penalty in the 67th minute for collapsing the scrum. However, stand-in kicker Bourret floated his effort to the right of the posts.
Reprising their earlier display, Wasps thought they had regained the lead in the 72nd minute when second rower Tom Palmer had the ball over the line.
But the ball was knocked on and, with Northampton penalised for coming in at the side with five minutes remaining, van Gisbergen once again proved unable to deliver.