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After going ten points down in the opening quarter, Wasps fought back to take a seven-point lead, ten minutes into the second half. But the visitors responded with eleven unanswered points, to complete a double over the men in black and gold, who slipped to a fourth successive Premiership defeat.
The opening minutes saw both sides making use of the high kick, and it was such a kick which saw Joe Simpson sent to the sin bin, after nine minutes. He was chasing his own hoisted clearance, and took Nick McLeod out in the air. The Sale flyhalf went down in the challenge, and was forced to leave the field. His place was taken by Danny Cipriani, whose first act was to thump the resultant penalty between the posts, from 40 metres.
Sale stretched their lead five minutes later after Wasps failed to gather a kick down the left touchline. It bounced away from Andrea Masi into the hands of David Seymour, just outside the Wasps 22. He fed the ball inside to Dan Braid, who had a clear run in to the line. Cipriani added the simple conversion to put the visitors 10-0 ahead, after 15 minutes.
Wasps played out the last few minutes of Simpson’s absence without any scares, and he returned to the field just as Joe Carlisle opened his side’s account with a 40-metre penalty.
Simpson was immediately involved, when he sent a neat grubber into Chris Bell’s path, 35 metres out. The Wasps skipper hacked ahead, and was just beaten to the ball, as it crossed the line. The referee took play back for a Wasps penalty and Carlisle was again on target from 40 metres to narrow the gap to 10-6, after 22 minutes.
Wasps came close to a score, with a powerful drive from a lineout, on the Sale 22. They took play to within inches of the line. The ball was then moved out, and eventually Ashley Johnson crossed the line, but lost control as he went over. Again, the referee took play back for a Wasps penalty. Carlisle landed his third successful kick from in front of the posts, to narrow the gap to a single point.
It was then Sale’s turn to come close, after David Seymour charged down Joe Simpson’s kick, inside the Wasps 22. They moved the ball quickly out to the left and were stopped just short. Play then came back across to the right where Seymour was unmarked, but a poor pass forced him to check, and he was forced into touch at the corner.
Wasps withstood several minutes of Sale pressure, and halftime came with the score unchanged.
Wasps began the second half with several minutes of pressure, following a flowing attack down the left. With six minutes of the half played, Wasps were awarded a penalty a few metres in from the left touchline, just inside the Sale 22. Carlisle landed an excellent kick, to give Wasps the lead for the first time.
Two minutes later, Ashley Johnson showed superb skill to gather a Cipriani clearance on halfway. He took the ball inches from touch and fed Will Helu. The winger fed Joe Simpson, who raced 40 metres for a superb try in the right corner. Carlisle’s conversion attempt clipped the outside of the left post, but Wasps were now 17-10 ahead and beginning to play with more urgency and fluency.
It took just five minutes for Sale to respond, when Cipriani produced a touch of magic with a half-dummy and short pass, to send Johnny Leota over in the left corner. His conversion attempt went well wide.
Five minutes later, a scrum penalty gave Cipriani a shot at the posts, from just inside the Wasps half and this time he was bang on target with a fine kick, to put the visitors back in front, as the game entered the final quarter.
Wasps had now made full use of the bench, with Andy Goode among the replacements. Fourteen minutes from time, he had a long-range penalty attempt, which went just wide.
Inside the final ten minutes, James Gaskell burst through the Wasps midfield, to take play deep into the 22. The ball was recycled quickly and a fine long pass by Cipriani almost sent Tom Brady in at the right corner. The Sale forwards arrived en masse and were stopped on the line. With their scrum now taking control, they won a penalty and opted for another scrum. They seemed certain to score, but Nathan Hughes somehow won possession, to break clear.
With three minutes left, Cipriani landed another penalty from 35 metres, to make the score 21-17. Wasps conceded a penalty straight from the restart, allowing Sale to wind the clock down further.
Wasps mounted one final attack with the clock at zero, but Andrea Masi chose to kick ahead, and Sale were happy to play the ball into touch and seal a narrow victory.