Wasps 26-20 Northampton: 38-year old New Zealander comes off bench to close out win for Wasps over unbeaten Northampton
Image: Robbie Stephenson/JMP/REX/Shutterstock)
Jimmy Gopperth lived up to his Peter Pan reputation by coming off the bench to kick Wasps to victory.
Gopperth turns 39 this season and is easily Premiership rugby’s oldest active player.
Yet he remains every bit the match winner that joined English rugby a dozen years ago as successor to Jonny Wilkinson.
Wasps needed his assassin’s touch in Coventry where they were threatening to cough up a routine victory against unbeaten Northampton.
With the match seemingly in the bag Jacob Umaga totally lost his goal kicking rhythm and missed three chances to finish the contest.
Then replacement hooker Gabriel Oghre hit Alex Mitchell high and, while lucky only to be sin binned, his absence allowed Saints’ skipper Lewis Ludlam the space to score and cut the deficit to just five points.
As the visitors closed in for the kill Wasps turned to Gopperth and the ageless Kiwi responded by nailing two long-range penalty strikes to settle the issue.
“Jimmy’s a great leader for us, he comes on and he’s composed,” said Wasps boss Lee Blackett. “And he still reckons he’s got five or six years left in him!”
Blackett’s relief was shared by England scrum-half Dan Robson, who scored one try and made another as Wasps took the midlands’ bragging rights.
“Jimmy’s someone you can trust,” Robson said. “When you bring on someone like him to close out a game you know you’re going to be in a good place.”
Gopperth now has more top flight points to his name than Wilkinson, Owen Farrell and George Ford. Only six in Premiership history have more.
It didn’t seem he would be needed when Wasps responded to Sam Matavesi’s smart early try with one of their own by Zach Kibirige.
Umaga added a couple of penalties and although Vaea Fifita’s try was chalked off for a forward pass, Robson’s score put them 10 points ahead.
But then the wheels started to come off and Gopperth got the call.
“Jimmy makes it look easy,” added Robson. “But I honestly I don’t think we’ll see others play on until they’re 38.
“I can tell you as a 29 year old I don’t know how he does it. He’s a very special player and special bloke.”
WASPS – Tries: Kibirige, Robson. Cons: Umaga 2. Pens: Umaga 2, Gopperth 2.
NORTHAMPTON – Tries: Matavesi, Ludlam, Fish. Con: Biggar. Pen: Biggar.