Aviva PremiershipWasps (15) 15Tries: Penalty, Le Roux Con: Cipriani Pen: CiprianiSaracens (18) 38Tries: Goode 2, Wyles, Burger, Spencer Cons: Farrell 2 Pens: Farrell 3
Saracens defied two yellow cards in little over a minute to claim a bonus-point victory at Wasps and halve the deficit on Premiership leaders Exeter.
Three first-half tries inside half an hour from Chris Wyles, Alex Goode and Schalk Burger put Sarries 18-3 up.
Wasps got back in it when, inside three minutes, Burger and Owen Farrell were sin-binned, and Wasps scored twice, a penalty and one from Willie Le Roux.
But a second try from Goode and one for Ben Spencer secured Sarries’ victory.
Having trailed Exeter by 10 points at the start of the day, second-placed Sarries’ bonus point from their five tries, coupled with allowed them to close the gap to five points.
And they did it with highly encouraging returns from injury for England pair Billy Vunipola, back after undergoing knee surgery in September, and Maro Itoje, who broke his jaw in December.
After recovering from a third major surgery in 10 months, prop Vunipola was a marauding powerhouse for the 69 minutes he was on the pitch, while lock Itoje, although less conspicuous, lasted the whole 80 minutes unscathed.
Sarries’ biggest Premiership win over third-placed Wasps was the injury-hit hosts’ first defeat in seven games – and came at the expense of further injuries, notably a late one for Le Roux.
It looked plain sailing for Sarries when, despite the rare sight of Farrell missing with all three kicks, Wyles and Goode both went in at the left corner inside the first 15 minutes, before Burger’s try carved an 18-3 lead, with only Danny Cipriani’s penalty in response.
But Burger was yellow carded for illegal entry into a driving maul which cost Sarries a penalty try. And, when Farrell was then also sin-binned for a high tackle on Dan Robson, Christian Wade’s pace helped the hosts cash in on the two-man advantage to score though Le Roux.
Wasps thought they had a way back in when flanker Thomas Young went over in the corner. But it was chalked off for putting a foot in touch.
Instead, it was the European champions who scored late though Goode and then again through Spencer in the dying seconds, by which time England and Lions linchpin Farrell had rediscovered his range to complete a haul of three penalties and two conversions.
Wasps boss Dai Young told BBC Coventry & Warwickshire:
“They had a bit too much firepower for us. You don’t win two European titles on the trot with a bad team. They’ll always be up there with the best.
“If we could have got something in that 10-minute spell after half-time we could have taken it to the wire and their two late tries were a bit of a kick in the nuts for us.
“It has certainly been our season for taking a hammering on the injury front. Going into this game, we only had 27 to pick from. But, as disappointed as we are, I’d have settled for sitting third after our first few weeks of the season.
“We’ve dug ourselves out of a bit of a hole. We’ve got two massive European games to navigate through then, after that, we’ll have a number of players coming back and there’s no reason why we can’t finish strongly.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
“Having Billy Vunipola back makes a difference to any team. It’s extraordinary in some respects to play as well as he did, given that he hasn’t played for four months.
“You could see how motivated he was, the fight that he had. He gets you over the gain-line when others sometimes wouldn’t. He was brilliant and hopefully that game-time will make him all the better for next week.
“We’ve had some good performances and there have been some games where we’ve played really well.
“We’ve now got ourselves into a decent position in the league, which is good. We’ve had two away games against Leicester and Wasps and won, so we’ve come out of this period well.”
Wasps: Le Roux; Wade, De Jongh, Lovobalavu, Watson; Cipriani, Robson; Harris, Johnson (capt), Cooper-Woolley, Gaskell, Myall, Haskell, Young, Carr.
Replacements: Cruse, West, Moore, Rowlands, Thompson, Simpson, Miller, Armitage.
Saracens: Goode; Earle, Taylor, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, Tolofua, Koch, Itoje, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Burger, B Vunipola.
Replacements: George, Barrington, Figallo, Skelton, Wray, Spencer, Lozowski, Maitland.
Sin bin: Burger (37), Farrell (38)
Referee: Wayne Barnes.