It has been a weekend for fly-halves coming off the bench and having a decisive say and if Jimmy Gopperth is at the opposite end of the career spectrum to Marcus Smith, the veteran New Zealander proved every bit as important in Wasps’ hard-fought victory over Northampton.
The 38-year-old came on midway through the second half and kicked two pivotal penalties to ensure Wasps edged out Northampton in a bizarre encounter – at times entertaining, at others error-strewn. Jacob Umaga impressed at No 10 for the hosts but he was wayward from the tee – missing three kicks at goal – and Gopperth’s key interventions, with the Wasps hooker Gabriel Oghre in the sin bin, kept the visitors at bay.
For Northampton it is a first defeat of the season and they may wonder what the outcome would have been had Oghre been shown red rather than yellow by the referee Craig Maxwell-Keys for a high tackle on Alex Mitchell in the 62nd minute. By that stage Wasps had seized the initiative through Dan Robson’s second-half try and led 20-10. But with Lewis Ludlam replying with a pushover try soon after, the Saints had a foothold again, and may have capitalised against 14 men for the rest of the match.
“There is no doubt it is a red card,” said Northampton’s director of rugby, Chris Boyd. “I don’t like the process particularly but you can’t tell me a swinging arm to the head, there is no sanction, I don’t think there is any malice or intent, it is unfortunate. We were too dumb to take advantage.”
Gopperth, however, was anything but. He is in his seventh season with Wasps, having made his Premiership debut for Newcastle in 2009, and while this is the last year of his current contract, he demonstrated just how important having an experienced head to call on can be.
“When you bring on someone like Jimmy Gopperth to close out a game you know you’re going to be in a good place,” said Robson. “He’s one of the hardest workers at the club. I don’t think we’ll see…
Source : theguardian