Daly and Mullan injuries cast shadow over Wasps triumph
The Wasps’ revival continues but it may have come at a cost to England. Both Elliot Daly and Matt Mullan limped out of this wonderful contest with injuries that could affect their chances of playing for England in the three-Test series next month.
The 34-man England squad will assemble today before flying to the Algarve for week-long warm weather training camp and both players are likely to require scans before departure. Daly did not reappear after the half-time interval because of an injury to his right knee while Mullan departed midway through the second half with a blow to his elbow and upper arm.
A third member of Jones’s squad, Piers Francis, who had kept Northampton in this game by landing four penalties, also required assistance to leave the field of play with an ankle injury.
Dai Young, Wasps director of rugby, said it would he would be disappointed if Daly and Mullan were ruled out of the autumn series against Argentina, Australia and Samoa.
“Hopefully it is just a collision injury, as in it is a bump and that will settle down,” said Young of Daly’s injury. “It is a concern when anyone goes off with a knee injury. It doesn’t look too bad. It may be a ligament strain or it could be a contact injury. We are not going to know for the next 48 hours. He is walking around on it fine so our medics will speak to the England guys and decide what to do.
“Matt Mullan looked like a shoulder but I think it is more of his elbow / bicep. It looks quite painful and I am not quite sure on the turnaround on that.”
Jim Mallinder, the Northampton director of rugby, said that Pier Francis had gone off after aggravating a knock to his ankle. “We’re not exactly sure what he has done, he did it early in the game then got another knock. Hopefully it’s not too bad. If there’s any doubt we’ll get him in to scan.”
A lengthening injury list is the last thing Young will have wanted given that he is already without 12 players because of injury plus Nathan Hughes, who is suspended. Yet if Northampton’s defeat completed a miserable winless October for them, Wasps can point to a creditable resurgence after losing five games on the bounce.
After the victory in the Champions Cup against Harlequins last Sunday, they moved up several gears yesterday to complete what was a comfortable bonus-point victory – the first time they have picked up the extra point since the first weekend of the season.
“We gave them a couple of weak tries, I was pretty disappointed with our defence,” Mallinder said. “It’s been a bad month and today just wasn’t good enough. We need to be better. We’ve had two tough games in Europe but the lads were up for it. That showed though their physicality but we just weren’t with it in terms of accuracy.” Four tries to two was a fair reflection of Wasps’ superiority.
Wasps were guilty of relying on the creativeness of their backs early in the season but yesterday’s victory was founded on the hard yards made by their back row and superlative contributions from Ashley Johnson and Joe Launchbury in the front five.
It had been a madcap first half, brimming with exhilarating rugby and reckless errors in equal measure.
The standout moment was a breathtaking two minutes which could have resulted in a try at either end before finally Christian Wade gathered a perfectly-placed kick by Johnson to score.
As if to characterise the madness, Wade then knocked over the conversion with a drop-kick to give his side a
counter-attack by Ahsee Tuala and Nafi Tuitavake was equally as impressive only for a turnover by Thomas Young allowing Wasps to counter, with Johnson’s kick releasing Wade. Northampton’s opening try had a hint of controversy too, with James Haskell claiming he had been obstructed by Jamie Gibson following Willie Le Roux’s poor exit kick as Ben Foden surged into the Wasps 22 before putting Tuala through to score.
The incident was reviewed by the television match official but referee Luke Pearce ruled the try was fair as Gibson had held his ground, even though he could be seen turning his shoulder towards Haskell.
When Alex Waller was penalised for tackling Dan Robson before he had time to play it, Gopperth was able to restore Wasps lead with his third penalty and after the try by Wade, Young’s side appeared to have struck again after Foden had been sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock-on.
Robson tiptoed his way to the goalline from the side of a ruck, only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for a foot in touch. Television replays showed that Robson had in fact just stayed the right side of the whitewash and Northampton rubbed salt into the wounds by winning the turnover after Wasps had kicked a subsequent penalty to touch.
Wasps would still be able to exploit their extra man at the start of the second half however by stretching Northampton from left to right before Johnson went over from a long pass by Le Roux. Two penalties in succession
Madcap first half brimmed with exciting rugby and reckless errors
by Francis looked to have put Northampton back into contention but De Jongh and Launchbury put Bassett over for his fifth try in seven games before De Jongh went over for the bonus point five minutes from time.
Harry Mallinder’s late try did little to ease another painful day for the Saints.
All-action encounter: Christian Wade of Wasps dives over for a try despite Ben Foden’s efforts to stop him (left) but he cannot prevent Harry Mallinder scoring a try for Northampton (top) while (right) Elliot Daly is treated after suffering an ankle injury