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The heavy rain which had fallen all day eased off a couple of hours before kickoff, and the game began in fine conditions.
Sale had the first scoring chance after three minutes following a scrum from a Dave Walder long diagonal kick that went dead. Play was called back into the Wasps half and the visitors were then penalised at a breakdown which allowed the returning Charlie Hodgson to put his side in front.
Three minutes later, after fullback Paul Williams dropped Walder’s high kick on his 22, Sale were penalised at the scrum and Walder levelled things with a straightforward kick from in front of the posts. The fly half then had another shot at the posts, after Ben Broster hacked the ball ahead from a breakdown inside his own half and Sale failed to release10 metres outside their 22. Walder’s kick sailed through the posts to put Wasps 6-3 ahead.
That lead lasted just two minutes, as it was soon Wasps’ turn to be penalised at a scrum just inside their half, and Hodgson was on target to bring things level again with 11 minutes gone.
Wasps then came close following a scrum near the Sale line. Andy Powell, Tom Rees, Joe Worsley and Dan Ward-Smith all made inroads, before Joe Ward was penalised for not releasing after he was brought down just short of the line. Sale then went ahead after a well-placed grub kick by Hodgson caused problems for Richard Haughton. He had to turn to gather the rolling ball, was caught in possession, and failed to release giving Hodgson an easy kick to put his side 9-6 in front after 18 minutes.
Wasps were forced into a substitution, five minutes later, when Charlie Beech came on for the injured Tim Payne. His first action was to join a lineout near the Sale corner, but after a couple of drives possession was turned over and the home side were able to clear to halfway.
A free kick near halfway gave Joe Simpson the chance to launch an attack, and good close quarter handling by the forwards took play into the Sale 22, where the home side was penalised and Dave Walder landed a fine kick from a metre in from touch, to bring things back to 9-9.
Another long Walder penalty found touch in the Sale 22, lineout possession was won, and a powerful charge set up a series of thrusts before the home side were penalised for not rolling away, fifteen metres from the line. Three more points for Walder but the penalty was reversed, as Wasps had tried to ruck the offending player out of the way and were deemed to have made over-vigorous use of the boot.
After 36 minutes, Hodgson put the home side back in front after another offence at the breakdown on the Wasps 22. As the game went into injury time, Sale conceded a breakdown penalty and Walder was again on target to make the halftime score 12-12.
Dan Ward-Smith, Joe Simpson
A stolen lineout inside the Sale 22 gave Wasps their first attacking chance of the second half. After series of phases Walder dropped for goal but was off target. David Lemi was then unlucky as he charged down a clearance kick a few metres from the Sale line, but the rebound sent the ball over the dead-ball line. A minute later, Sale were back in front when Hodgson landed his fifth penalty, from 35 metres, to make it 15-12 with 48 minutes played. He immediately stretched that lead to six points with another penalty kick from just inside the Wasps half and a few metres in from touch.
Rob Webber then entered the fray, in place of Joe Ward. Walder had the chance to halve the deficit, with a long-range kick of his own, but it fell short and wide. A minute later, quick passing sent David Lemi away down the left. With the defence closing in on him, he chipped ahead and a defender deliberately sent the ball dead. Wasps went for the corner and the resultant lineout saw Dan Ward-Smith powering his way over for his second try in two games. Walder’s conversion put his side ahead by a single point, 19-18.
The lead lasted no more than a minute, as Wasps were penalised at the restart and Hodgson kept up his 100 percent record, with his seventh penalty of the night. 21-19 became 24-19, after Hodgson’s high kick downfield caused problems for Lemi and Haughton, just outside their 22. The inevitable penalty ensued and Hodgson made it 8 out of 8.
With thirteen minutes of normal time left, Rob Webber was shown a yellow card, for apparent dissent. When Sale failed to release, two minutes later, Walder had another long-range kick for the posts and he made no mistake to narrow the gap to 24-22.
With Webber in the bin, the next scrum saw Joe Ward came back on to the field in place of Joe Worsley. Nic Berry then replaced Joe Simpson and Shaun Ruwers came on for Ben Broster, to make his debut for Wasps. Berry played a crucial role in the build up to Walder’s dramatic winning kick as the forwards worked their way deep into the 22, to put the fly half into the perfect position to send the ball between the posts. The win, a result of an unwavering dedication to the cause until the dying moments put Wasps into 7th place in the table on Friday night as attention now turns to Europe a the small task of champions Toulouse on the road.
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