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Gopperth guides Wasps to victory over Saracens

By PA
Jimmy Gopperth of Wasps clears the ball upfield (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Jimmy Gopperth kicked 16 points as Wasps completed a hat-trick of impressive home victories with a 26-20 win over Saracens.

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After beating Premiership leaders Leicester 16-13 and European champions Toulouse 30-22, they defeated fiercest rivals Saracens, who missed the chance to close the gap at the top of the table.

Gopperth kicked four penalties and converted both tries scored by Sam Spink and Elliot Stooke.

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Alex Lewington, Nick Tompkins and Tom Woolstencroft scored Saracens’ tries, with Alex Lozowski adding a penalty and a conversion.

Wasps captain Joe Launchbury returned after a nine-month absence with damaged knee ligaments but they suffered a pre-match blow when prop Rodrigo Martinez injured his ankle in the warm-up and left the field on a stretcher.

However, they overcame this setback to take a fourth-minute lead with a simple penalty from Gopperth before going on to pick up the first try when Spink raced over after Saracens had failed to deal with a speculative up-and-under from Marcus Watson.

Gopperth converted but missed a straightforward penalty after a Saracens player had spoken out of turn to referee Karl Dickson.

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It took the visitors 18 minutes to break into the opposition 22 but when they did a strong run from Tompkins won his side his penalty which Lozowski kicked to put the visitors on the scoreboard.

Gopperth nullified this with his second penalty before the visitors looked to have scored their first try.

A neat chip over the top from Manu Vunipola was twice hacked on by Alex Goode with Lewington appearing to win the race to touch down, but TMO replays showed that the wing had lost possession.

Lewington was not to be denied and rewarded a sustained period of pressure by supporting a burst from Billy Vunipola to dive over.

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The visitors continued to dominate the second quarter and deservedly scored their second try when Woolstencroft forced his way over to leave the scores level at 13-13 at the interval.

Launchbury was replaced at the break by James Gaskell but resilient Wasps would not lie down and another penalty from Gopperth put them back in front before Tonga international centre Malakai Fekitoa was introduced for his first game since dislocating his shoulder back in September.

It was in time to see Gopperth kick his fourth penalty to give Wasps a six-point advantage going into the final quarter.

Saracens then had a second try ruled out by the TMO. Replacement Andy Christie secured the touchdown from close range but replays showed a Wasps player being impeded.

The game hung in the balance but Saracens were frequently on the wrong side of the refereeing decisions and the hosts broke out to seal victory with a try from Stooke four minutes from the end.

Saracens deserved something from the game and got it with a last-minute try from Tompkins, with Lozowski’s conversion securing the bonus point.

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