Tetley's Bitter Cup final 2000
Wasps keep Northampton waiting with Tetley's victory
May 13, 2000
A general view of the Tetley's Bitter trophy, May 9 1998

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London Wasps 31 - 23 Northampton

Northampton RFC were inaugurated back in 1880 and in the 120 years since they have never lifted a trophy worth boasting about and after today's Tetley Cup final they are still waiting.

Wasps scored four tries to one as Northampton's most influential player of late, Lady Luck, finally deserted them when they needed her most. They fought hard but lacked the vision and ambition of Wasps who always looked the more dangerous side.

It was a desperately close affair and there was just one point seperating the teams until deep into injury time when Grayson missed a fifty five yard penalty which would surely have settled the matter in the Saints favour.

I don't know the exact size of Northampton's normal population but I'd hazard a guess that it was down to single figures on Saturday afternoon as a good few thousand had upped sticks and decamped to Twickenham.

Wasps supporters were a bit thinner on the ground but at least their side enjoyed the better opening quarter... not that the scoreboard agreed. Paul Grayson did what he does best and kicked two penalties, one from the half way line, against one from Alex King. The Wasps flyhalf could have had another three points but opted for a quick tap instead.

The match was a battle of styles with Saints asking their big forwards to make the inroads while Wasps looked dangerous moving the ball wide, especially when it found Shane Roiser waiting for it. This adventurous appraoch paid off in the 22 minute when Wasps fullback Josh Lewsey squeezed past Lam's despairing tackle in the left hand corner. The try had resulted from nothing more than several quick phases of possession and a good turn of pace from Lewsey.

Referee Brian Campsall then ensured the match would not pass without controversy as he handed out three yellow cards in five minutes; Rob Henderson, Federico Mendez and Paul Volley the culprits in that order. While the latter two deserved their rest Henderson looked a wronged man. The whole incident was a shambles as Volley actually returned to the field before Mendez did only to be invited to take his place in the stand once more.

The net result of all these penalties, Grayson kicked two to King's single reply, was to give the Saints a narrow one point lead 12-11. However they did have long to enjoy it. Tim Rodber's tackle had prevnted a second try from Lewsey in the right hand corner but the defence had been stretched too thin to hold someone of Trevor Leota's size and shape. The Samoan hooker did it his way, he hit the line at pace and barged over the Saints' line in the corner.

England winger Ben Cohen then had a long meandering run deep into Wasps territory but when the ball was recycled it was too slow to be of any use, a perpetual problem for Northampton.

King had fluffed both the conversions badly but extended Wasps lead with the last kick of the half after Rodber had been spotted using an illegal elbow. This allowed the Londoners to take a handy 19-12 lead into the half time dressing room but they were not to score for the next thirty two minutes play.

King mishit the opening chance of the second half so badly that kicked the next two penalties, both well inside the Northampton half, into touch for a lineout. Saints were boosted by the reprive and players and fans alike woke up.

Grayson's 50th minute penalty reduced the defecit to just four points as Northampton started the use their backs for something other than just tackling practise. Just four minutes later Nick Beal's chip kick was fielded by Roiser only for the Wasps winger to be bunded into touch. From the lineout Northampton's behemoth pack marched their way accross the Wasps line and Pounteney was on the bottom of the bodies to claim the try his general excellence deserved.

The match entered the final quarter with Northampton's one point lead intact and the heat of the day beginning to take its toll on some tired legs. Another Grayson penalty, his sixth, came in the 66th minute although Wasps had an excellent scoring opportunity when Roiser rounded Cohen with worrying ease. Nick Beal's covering saved the Saints on that occcasion but Wasps still looked dangerous as they went in search of the match-winning try.

They got it in the 72nd minute from Scotland's rejected winger Kenny Logan. He had Dallaglio to thank as the number eight's storming run, following excellent work from Denny and Worsley, required three defenders to stop it and Dallaglio was able to slip the ball to Logan waiting on the wing.

The Scot scored the try but he proved no more adept at kicking the conversion than King had been and Wasps still had to endure eight minutes of time with the slenderest one point lead. Saints had their chances, Bateman slipped through a gap and Moir was held up a yard short, but it was not to be and Mark Denny's injury time try just rubbed salt in the wound.

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