Northampton Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson was a relieved man after his side snatched an extraordinary 40-36 victory over Wasps at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Sunday.
Financially beleaguered Wasps were on course to lift the mood at their club as they were the dominant side for most of the match and held a deserved 36-28 lead in the game’s closing stages.
But Northampton refused to surrender and produced an amazing fightback as Alex Coles’ unconverted try reduced the deficit to one point before they sealed their win in sensational fashion courtesy of a last-gasp try from Courtnall Skosan.
Dowson said: “It’s frustrating because it took us that long to start playing, really.
“We spent a lot of time in the first half in our own half, territory-wise, putting ourselves under pressure.
“I thought they played very well, they did exactly what we’d spoken about doing tactically, putting the ball in behind, working really hard to put us under pressure and create opportunities that way.
“I thought discipline was poor as well, but in the latter stages of the second half we finally found a bit of rhythm and managed to get going forward and move the ball into a bit of space, having created it, and looked after it.
“The last few minutes were great, but there’s probably 60 or 70 minutes that weren’t.
“We’re delighted with the relentless effort, but we also understand that we need to be better than that.”
Wasps held an 18-11 half-time lead after Jack Willis and Paolo Odogwu scored tries, with Coles giving Northampton hope before Gabriel Oghre and Charlie Atkinson crossed the whitewash to secure a bonus point for the home side.
Saints struck back with an Ollie Sleightholme five-pointer before Wasps’ Jacob Umaga was sent off for a dangerous mid-air challenge on Skosan, who went on to be the match-winner.
Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said: “The work rate was outstanding, they put a lot of effort into it.
“There’s a lot of guys having their first couple of games of the season as well out there, so there were loads of pleasing parts to it, if we could just have seen it through.
“That’s why we’re obviously gutted – you look at the last 12 minutes and conceding three tries once we went down to 14.
“Obviously it was a penalty try and a red card, but then we conceded two more during that period.
“When you look at off the field, I think everyone at first is really positive.
“I think it’s only natural that the longer it carries on, the more people will start to get worried.
“They’re playing some good rugby, the boys, at the moment – we could be sat here four from four and we’re sat here one from four.”