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All the early pressure came from Sale after Wasps had been penalised for not releasing inside the first minute.
The penalty set up a lineout 10 metres inside the Wasps hal and an ominous catch and drive took play up to the 22. Multiple phases followed, until the home side were penalised.
Tommy Bell’s kick failed to find touch, Mark Cueto’s long clearance found touch in the Wasps 22 and Wasps lost the lineout. Another multi-pased attack took play up to the Wasps line, before quick passing sent the ball back out to the left wing, where Tom Brady took advantage of a big overlap to go over in the corner with seven minutes gone. Nick McLeod’s conversion attempt hit the right-hand post.
From the restart, Billy Vunipola gathered a long clearance and charged 30 metres downfield to set up a promising position, but Wasps were penalised at the breakdown.
The Wasps backs finally had a chance to move the ball, after a turnover was won inside their 22. The ball went out to the left and Elliot Daly made good ground before feeding Tom Varndell, but the winger was forced into touch on halfway. Wasps were now beginning to win some ball, and one sustained period of possession, featuring powerful burst by many of the forwards, yielded a penalty, a few metres inside the Sale half. Tommy Bell went for the posts, but his kick went well wide.
With 17 minutes gone, Billy Vunipola left the field for a concussion check and was replaced by Jonathan Poff. Within a minute, Wasps were ahead, after Joe Simpson took a quick penalty on the Sale 10-metre line and raced through the retreating defence. Just inside the 22, he found Christian Wade in support, and the winger managed to power through two tackles to cross for his 12th Premiership try of the season. Bell had a simple conversion, to put his side ahead.
The lead lasted less than a minute as Simpson allowed McLeod’s long restart to roll into touch at the corner. Ashley Johnson took the ball at the back of the lineout, but he was stopped and dispossessed, and Dan Braid forced his way over, near the posts. McLeod’s conversion put Sale back in front.
Vunipola returned to the field, after being given the all-clear. For the next few minutes, Wasps found some real rhythm, with both he and Ashley Johnson constantly forcing their way over the gain line, to set up quick ball. Frustratingly, it came to nothing, as they conceded a turnover followed by a breakdown penalty, which allowed Sale to clear downfield.
Another Sale penalty, on the Wasps 10-metre line, was taken quickly, when McLeod hoisted a high kick out towards the left wing where Tom Brady was standing in acres of space. Elliot Daly managed to get across to challenge him but the ball went into touch, from his knock-on.
Seven minutes before halftime, a reset Wasps scrum led to a Sale penalty, 35 metres out. Brady was again unfortunate as he saw his kick come back off the left post. The home side kept up the pressure and turned down two kickable penalties, inside the last minute of the half. From the second, a quick tap by Dwayne Peel, they made a series of thrusts for the line, but the defence held firm, and a Sale knock-on brought an entertaining half to a close, with the home side still 12-7 ahead.
Wasps made a change for the second half, with Lorenzo Romano replacing Phil Swainston.
Sale began the second half strongly, in a passage of over three minutes of uninterrupted play from the restart. Brady came into a midfield with a scything run, to take play deep into the Wasps 22, and a series of powerful charges for the line followed, but Wasps again held out, and Sale eventually knocked on, just over 5 metres from the line.
With ten minutes of the half gone, and Sale still camped in the Wasps 22, Rhys Thomas replaced Tom Lindsay. He was thrown straight into the action, as Sale opted to take a scrum, when Wasps were penalised, near the left corner. Another scrum produced another penalty, but Sale then went for a blindside attack, the ball was spilt, and Wasps finally lifted the siege.
It was only a brief respite, as Sale forced a turnover, when Wasps tried to break out of their half. A series of reset scrums resulted in the inevitable penalty, just outside the 22. Brady’s kick stretched the lead to 15-7, but Wasps roared back, within a minute.
Hugo Southwell gathered a clearance kick and carved through the middle of the Sale defence. When he was stopped, the ball was moved out to the right, and Christian Wade somehow wriggled through two tackles for his second try of the afternoon, to draw level with Tom Varndell as the Premiership’s leading tryscorer. Bell landed the conversion, to narrow the gap to a single point.
Varndell then had half a chance to go back ahead of his team-mate, as a turnover in midfield gave Wasps the chance to move play out wide. He was put in possession 40 metres out, and a few metres in from touch, but was unable to beat the cover defence. The Sale lineout led to a Wasps scrum, and a penalty. Tommy Bell landed an excellent kick, into a strong wind, to put his side back in front, with 18 minutes left.
Within three minutes Sale were back in front, and Wasps were down to 14 men, as Lorenzo Romano was shown a yellow card, following a scrum in front of the posts, and Brady had a simple task to make the score 18-17. Two minutes later, a strong Wasps attack down the left yielded a penalty, five metres in from touch, but Tommy Bell, from 30 metres, sent his kick just wide.
From the 22 dropout, Joe Simpson produced a wonderful burst, which took play right up to the Sale line. Sale were penalised, 10 metres from the posts. This time, Bell made no mistake, and Wasps were again two points in front, inside the final ten minutes.
With just over five minutes left, Wasps were penalised at a lineout, 30 metres out, and McLeod restored the home side’s narrow lead.
As the game entered the last two minutes, Wasps won a penalty, five metres inside their half, right in midfield. Elliot Daly attempted a long-range kick at the posts, but it dropped just short. A poor clearance went straight to Zak Taulafo, but he knocked on. Sale won the scrum, and cleared to touch, to end the
And that’s it for this season. Thanks for your continued support over the past eight months, and we hope to see you all again next season.
Wasps team: 15 Hugo Southwell (captain) 14 Tom Varndell 13 Elliot Daly 12 Chris Bell 11 Christian Wade
10 Tommy Bell 9 Joe Simpson 1 Simon McIntyre 2 Tom Lindsay 3 Phil Swainston 4 Tom Palmer 5 Marco Wentzel 6 Ashley Johnson 7 Sam Jones 8 Billy Vunipola
Replacements 16 T Rhys Thomas 17 Zak Taulafo 18 Lorenzo Romano 19 James Cannon 20 Jonathan Poff 21 Charlie Davies
22 Charlie Hayter 23 Jack Wallace
Sale: Team: Mark Cueto, Will Addison, Johnny Leota, Sam Tuitupou, Tom Brady, Nick Macleod, Dwayne Peel, Alasdair Dickinson, Marc Jones, Henry Thomas, Kearnan Myall, Andrei Ostrikov, Dan Braid, David Seymour Captain, James Gaskell
Replacements: Tommy Taylor, Ross Harrison, Vadim Cobilas, Tom Holmes, Andy Powell, Nathan Fowles, Sam James, Charlie Amesbury