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In the week leading up to this Zurich Premiership match, it seemed every newspaper, rugby show and website, were predicting a Sharks victory. Given Wasps’ poor start to the season, one could understand why. However, it seems every time you write the Black & Gold Army off, they tend to bounce back and win when you least expect it.
Warren Gatland has been saying all along that Wasps are playing good rugby. Even better rugby than the same time last season. The only things missing were to secure that win and a little magic from someone.
Enter Fraser Waters. The player that was left out of Clive Woodward’s initial World Cup training squads. The same player who shone so brightly throughout last season but sadly was left relatively unnoticed by any World Cup selectors.
Although his partner in crime, Stuart Abbott, is down under stealing some limelight, it was Waters who stole the show in front of a 5,000-strong Edgeley Park crowd. This Friday night, Waters would provide that little bit of magic so badly needed.
Three first-half tries, were what Gatland and the Wasps’ fans had ordered. The first came when Wasters was left relatively unnoticed on the blind side and was allowed to score as early as the 2nd minute. Flyhalf, Mark Van Gisbergen drilled over the touch-line conversion and Wasps led 0-7.
The sides then swapped penalties, with Braam Van Straaten landing a Sale penalty, before Waters went over again after John Rudd had cleverly kept the ball in play. Van Gisbergen converted but three Van Straaten penalties in 10 minutes brought Sale back into the game at 12-17.
However, Waters was unstoppable as he crossed again in the corner to complete his hat trick. A cushion for Wasps and some money for charities as Zurich, Premiership sponsors, provide money to certain charities when hat tricks are scored.
However, it seemed every time Wasps would extend the lead, Sale would hit back &ndash and hit back they did through Graham Bond and the boot of Van Straaten. Bond's mixture of power and pace took him over for the home side’s first try of the match and Van Straaten's fifth successful kick narrowed the gap to five points as Wasps took a 19-24 lead into the half-time break.
The second half saw Van Straaten miss a long range penalty attempt, but it was from an almost identical position that Van Gisbergen landed his fifth kick and gave Gatland’s side an eight-point cushion.
Trevor Leota replaced Phil Greening at hooker, after 53 minutes and the front-row giant had an immediate impact, causing major problems for the Sale defence.
But it was lock, Simon Shaw, whose fantastic skill and neat pass allowed winger, John Rudd, to score under the posts and secure a bonus point. Van Gisbergen landed the easy conversion and Wasps stretched the lead to 19-34.
A late flurry from Sale saw replacement, Matt Cairns, score his side’s second try and close the gap, but another Van Gisbergen penalty took the game beyond Jim Mallinder’s side.
Referee, Ashton-Jones, awarded the home side a late penalty try, but it was too little to late as Wasps held on for the 33-37 away win.
Gatland said, “ We showed guts and character. We are too good a side not to be higher up the table. Our defence was impressive. It was always going to be a tough game so it was nice to get a cushion. I think we are playing better now that we were last year.