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Saracens hold on for victory

Saracens began their LV= Cup campaign with a nerve-racking 24-21 bonus point victory over north London rivals Wasps.

Seventeen points behind Saracens at one stage, Wasps were rejuvenated and were it not for a last gasp tackle on Tom Howe in the final play of the match, the hosts would have completed a remarkable turnaround.

The first 25 minutes was an even contest before Saracens hit their opponents with 24 unanswered points to lead 24-7 with only 17 minutes remaining.

During that period Saracens hit Wasps with four tries through Ben Ransom, Nick Tompkins, Richard Barrington and Jack Wilson with Ben Spencer converting two.

However, Spencer did miss four kicks which would have put Saracens out of sight.

Wasps staged a major rally, scoring tries through replacements Neil Cochrane and Ben Jacobs to add to a first half effort from Matt Everard but they just came up short.

Wasps recalled Jonah Holmes from his loan spell at Leeds Carnegie to take up a wing berth while Elliot Daly was given a first start of the season in his favoured centre position.

Former Worcester player Joe Carlisle was selected at fly-half with James Haskell taking on the captaincy.

Saracens selected a strong pack with Mauritz Botha, Will Fraser and Justin Melck all included with Tim Streather was given a first start in the centres.

The opening period was even but featureless with both sides struggling to bring any continuity to their play in the difficult conditions.

It was Wasps who built up the first period of pressure and were rewarded with the first try after 15 minutes.

At successive scrums in their own 22, the visitors lost possession under pressure from the Wasps' pack and from the second Everard was on hand to collect the loose ball and drive over for the try which Carlisle converted.

Saracens had their first chance for points but Spencer missed his 30 metre penalty attempt but after 27 minutes they reduced the arrears with a breakaway try.

Wasps lost possession on halfway allowing centres Streather and Tompkins, to counterattack swiftly.

A tap tackle by Daly foiled Jack Wilson, who looked a certain scorer, but Saracens recycled leaving Ransom with an easy run-in.

With the last movement of the first half, Saracens took the lead with a try from Tompkins who ran on to a clever chip through from Nils Mordt.

Spencer converted to give his side a 12-7 interval advantage.

Within two minutes of the restart, Carlisle was penalised for not releasing but Spencer was unable to increase the lead as he missed his third kick of the evening.

Despite this miss, Saracens continued to dominate the first 10 minutes of the second half and were rewarded with their third try when prop Richard Barrington finished off a line-out drive.

Spencer converted and the game looked as good as over when a pass from Guy Thompson was intercepted to allow Wilson to scoot away for Saracens' bonus point try.

Wasps showed some renewed energy to score their second try after 63 minutes with a score from replacement hooker Cochrane, with Carlisle converting to bring the deficit back to 10 points.

Minutes later Wilson was yellow carded for killing the ball which gave Wasps hope of a remarkable comeback.

Jacobs, blew one scoring opportunity by hanging on to the ball but he soon made amends by crashing over for Wasps' third try which Carlisle converted to set up a grandstand finish.


From Belfast Telegraph