Saracens 29-24 London Wasps, Aviva Premiership
Hodgson boots Sarries to victory
November 4, 2012
Charlie Hodgson steers Saracens home against Wasps%]
Saracens were outscored on the try-scoring front but did enough to beat Wasps 29-24 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
Charlie Hodgson was named Man of the Match following a performance which saw him contribute 21 of Sarries' 29 points. Hodgson's only kicking miss was a conversion attempt from the touchline after lock Alistair Hargreaves scored Sarries' only try.
South African Hargreaves had an afternoon of mixed fortunes, grabbing his charge-down try and being sin-binned before being carried off on a stretcher following a controversial challenge by James Haskell. Saracens' other three points came from a Nils Mordt penalty while Hodgson was off the pitch receiving treatment for a cut.
But Wasps pushed them all the way, with tries from winger Tom Varndell and scrum-half Charlie Davies, three penalties and a drop goal from Nick Robinson and a conversion by his replacement Tommy Bell not quite enough to stop their four-match winning run in all competitions from coming to an end.
Saracens, who needed to win by seven points to go top, were without Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Chris Ashton, Mouritz Botha, Alex Goode and Mako Vunipola through England call-ups while Wales prop Rhys Gill was ruled out by injury. Former England winger David Strettle served early notice on Wasps, slicing through their defence before opposite number Christian Wade produced a try-saving tackle.
But Wasps conceded a penalty, allowing Hodgson to kick Sarries ahead after only four minutes. The visitors took only two minutes to hit back with the opening try. Wade found full-back Hugo Southwell, whose well-timed pass provided Varndell - this season's leading Premiership try-scorer - with the space to outpace Richard Wigglesworth on the outside and touch down in the corner for his seventh of the campaign. Robinson missed the conversion and a long-range penalty before landing a calmly-struck 30-metre drop goal in the 20th minute.
Charlie Hodgson knocked over 21 points for Saracens © PA Photos
But two penalties in the following three minutes from Hodgson edged the home side 9-8 ahead. Hargreaves, showing remarkable agility for a big man, scored Saracens' sole try in the 28th minute. The giant South African second row made the most of his 6ft 7in frame to charge down an attempted clearance kick by Davies from the base of a Wasps scrum and then won the chase to dive on the ball and claim the try, but Hodgson was off-target with the difficult conversion.
Centre Elliot Daly was narrowly wide with a long-range penalty shot for Wasps before Robinson landed one from closer in. Robinson struck again to level the scores in the final minute of the first half after try-scorer Hargreaves was yellow-carded by referee JP Doyle for going over the top at a ruck.
Two minutes into the second half Hodgson went off with a blood injury after Saracens were awarded a penalty and Mordt came on to kick the goal and put the home side back in front. Six minutes later Robinson levelled the scores with his third penalty. England back-row forward Haskell incurred the wrath of the home crowd with a huge hit on Hargreaves, who received treatment on the pitch for several minutes before being carried off.
But the only sanction from referee Doyle was a penalty, which Hodgson struck from 40 metres to put his side back in front at 20-17. Two more penalties from Hodgson in a three-minute spell stretched Sarries' lead to nine points.
Robinson's replacement Bell was just short with a penalty from inside his own half before Hodgson struck his seventh from two metres inside the Wasps half. But Wasps battled to the end and they were rewarded with a losing bonus point when Davies squeezed over for a last-gasp try, converted by Bell.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.