- Saracens 56 Wasps 15
Max Malins helped himself to four tries of a severely-depleted Wasps, becoming the first player to score back-to-back Premiership hat-tricks in another Saracens rout.
If Malins’ decision to wear tights wore a few eyebrows at the StoneX Stadium – not least in a scornful changing room – it was his finishing instincts that really turned heads here. Generally regarded as a playmaking full-back, here he again demonstrated that he is hardly wasted on the wing with a return of 16 tries in his last 11 matches.
No player enters England’s training camp for the autumn internationals in hotter form which makes Eddie Jones’ back-three permutations one of the most fascinating areas of team selection.
“I think our right wingers are going mad as none of them scored a try,” Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, said.
“A couple of his finishes have been top class, some of them have been really good team tries which is good as well. Max was on the end of a lot of good work from the team and I think he realises that.”
The tights were a one-off after Malins cut both his knees a few weeks ago. With players now being given dispensation to wear leggings on artificial surfaces, England wing Jonny May became the first player to don tights on Saturday followed by Malins today, not that spared him the dogs’ abuse he received from his Saracens team-mates.
“I knew I was going to get some stick for it, so had to put on a good performance didn’t I?” Malins said. “The amount of looks and comments I got, was exactly what I expected. It was coming from all different angles, but you’ve got to own it.”
As for the result, let’s just put pay to this nonsense that every game in the Premiership is tight and unpredictable, which is parroted every week by coaches and players. Any league that has four near 50-point blowouts in the space of a week loses its right to market itself as “ferociously competitive”.
Unlike Bath and Worcester, Wasps have some excuse. Heading into this game they had 16 players unavailable through injury while a further seven were being rested after a bruising game last week against Exeter.
Then in the first half, they had to use four of their replacements, although one of those was because their suffering tighthead Pieter Schotz was absolutely gassed.
Head coach Lee Blackett said: “I think it could have been worse. We had six people making their debut. I don’t think you can take too many positives away from a defeat like that. Teams have to rotate, and with the injuries we’ve had we’ve not been able to gently rotate, we’ve had to do what we did today.”
After Owen Farrell kicked a pair of penalties, Wasps were able to hold Saracens at bay until the 16th minute when Saracens ran a devastatingly effective lineout set move with Billy Vunipola providing the momentum and hooker Jamie George, who was sharp throughout, the score.
The second score was instigated by an outrageous reverse pass from Alex Goode inside his own 22, finished by Malins. Vunipola then boshed his way through the Wasps half backs off the back of a dominant Saracens scrum.
Having lost Will Simonds (knee), Ben Morris (hamstring) Tom Cruse (head) and Scholtz (exhaustion) in the first half, Wasps would have been fairly relieved to have got to halftime at 27-3 down.
It immediately got worse as Malins got his second to bring up the bonus point. It is credit to Wasps that they never waved the white flag. Their efforts were typified by 38-year-old fly-half Jimmy Gopperth who scored a classic winger’s try in the corner from a long pass by Ali Crossdale.
Full-back Crossdale also created Wasps’ second when he pounced on a loose ball in his 22 to hack ahead with Zach Kibirige beating Farrell in the foot-race. Yet with all their absentees, it was inevitable Wasps would run out of steam and Malins scored twice in quick succession, both with assists from Farrell.
Alex Lozowski and the tireless Ben Earl completed the rout, but while Malins got the plaudits, McCall was keen to emphasise the contribution of No 8 Vunipola following his England omission.
“How Billy didn’t get man of the match I’ll never know,” McCall said “Billy was unbelievable today, a force of nature in the first half. He gave us all the momentum, all the go-forward, imposed him physically, I thought he was wonderful.”
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