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London Wasps suffered their second loss in as many weeks after the Sale Sharks beat Warren Gatland’s side 33-30. A Charlie Hodgson drop-goal in the 78th minute secured the win for the visitors, which allowed them to hold on for the win.
The game, played in front of over 7’000 fans, was played at a fast and furious pace to the delight of the spectators. First blood went to Sale when Jason Robinson neatly chipped the ball over the cross bar for a drop-goal and three points. Wasps tried to hit back immediately, when the combination of Joe Worsley and Josh Lewsey almost saw the first try of the game being scored. The winger charged towards the tryline and looked to have scored, but the Television Match Official ruled Robinson had held him up.
The first ten minutes saw the home side exert all the pressure on the visitors, but poor handling and mistakes kept Wasps from scoring. In fact, it was Sale who scored the first try of the game, courtesy of Robert Todd who ran 30m to score the try. Charlie Hodgson added the conversion and Sale were on their way leading 10-nil.
It didn’t take Wasps long to respond with a try of their own when Peter Richards forced his way over. It started when a poor clearance from Hodgson landed in the hands of Mark Van Gisbergen. The fullback charged up and found space, which gave the forwards the platform to recycle the ball to Lewsey who was on hand to offload to Richards. Alex King slotted the conversion to make it 7-10.
Five minutes later, Tim Payne scored Wasps’ second try when he collected a neat pass from Tom Voyce and crashed over the tryline. Another King conversion saw Wasps take the lead for the first time in the game.
On 21-minutes, Hodgson slotted an easy penalty from in front of the posts to make it 14-13. However, ten minutes later, King landed his first penalty of the game to take Wasps into a 17-13 lead. The score looked to be staying like that going into the break, but when some loose passing from Wasps fell into the hands of Steve Hanley, the winger sped away to score a intercept try. The conversion from Hodgson allowed Sale to retake the lead.
At 17-20 down and on the stroke of half-time, Wasps were given a penalty and King responded with a long-range effort from the touchline. This levelled the scores at 20-all at half-time.
The start of the second half saw Sale strike an early blow, as the wing combination of Mark Cueto and Hanley scored the try of the match. Cueto collected a clearance attempt that failed to go out. He ran at the defence and offloaded to Hanley who scored his second try of the match. The conversion from Hodgson followed to make it 27-20 in Sale’s favour.
Seven points down, Wasps needed to do something special but stern defence and more handling mistakes from Wasps saw many opportunities go amiss. However, one such opportunity did pay off, when Joe Worsley charged toward the tryline only to be held up on the line. The England flanker didn’t panic and recycled the ball, which allowed Matt Dawson the gift of scoring his first league try for Wasps. The scrumhalf dived from close range and with the conversion from Van Gisbergen, Wasps levelled the scores at 27-all.
At this point in the game, Phil Greening made his first league appearance since January. The hooker has recovered from a foot injury and made an impressive impact for the final 20-minutes.
Hodgson and Van Gisbergen traded penalties to make it 30-all and with five minutes left, it was still anybody’s game. However, Sale had the final say as Hodgson banged over the winning drop-goal, which sealed their 33-30 win.
A hand injury to Lewsey is one of the concerns for Warren Gatland this week. The winger will need an x-ray over the weekend, but early indications suggest it may be broken. If it’s broken, he could be out for six-weeks.
London Wasps scorers:
Tries: Richards, Payne, Dawson
Con: King 2, Van Gisbergen
Pen: King 2, Van Gisbergen
Sale Sharks scorers:
Tries: Todd, Hanley 2
Con: Hodgson 3
Pen: Hodgson 2
DG: Robinson, Hodgson
King: 0 con, 0 con, 0 pen, x pen, 0 pen,
Van Gisbergen: 0 con, 0 pen
Hodgson: 0 con, 0 pen, 0 con, 0 con, 0 pen,
Man of Match: Robert Todd