Wasps’ proud 100% record at Adams Park was ended by a Sale side who had the incentive of knowing that a good win would take them through to the semifinals of the LV= Cup.
After taking an early lead, they were set to take a narrow lead into the break – but two yellow cards, immediately before and after halftime, cost them dear, as they conceded three tries while down to thirteen men. A late fightback was not quite enough, and Wasps ended up three points short.
Wasps took the lead in the sixth minute, following a scrum in front of the Sale posts. Skipper Sam Jones picked up at the base and passed to Charlie Davies who fed Charlie Hayter, coming at pace on a perfect angle to go over between the posts for his first try in Black and Gold . Stephen Jones added the simple conversion.
Two minutes later, Tommy Bell’s penalty attempt from just inside his own half, fell well short. After 13 minutes, Stephen Jones had a much simpler kick from 30 metres and in front of the posts. He made no mistake, to put his side 10-0 ahead.
It took fifteen minutes for Sale to enter the Wasps half when they turned down a kickable penalty, to go for the corner. They won another penalty and again went for the corner. They won the lineout and drove for the line. Initially, they were pushed back, but a powerful countersurge sent them back towards the line. The maul went down, just short, the referee decided it had been brought down illegally and awarded a penalty try, which Danny Cipriani converted.
Five minutes later, the visitors went ahead again from a lineout in the left corner. This time, they made a series of individual drives for the line, before lock Kearnan Myall forced his way over. Cipriani’s conversion made the score 14-10.
Almost immediately, Stephen Jones narrowed the gap to a single point, with a 35-metre penalty. Eight minutes before the break, Sale failed to roll away from the tackle, just inside their half. Jones went for goal, but his kick truck the right-hand post, just above the bar and bounced to safety.
Three minutes later, another long-range penalty was entrusted to Tommy Bell and he had the distance and the accuracy to put Wasps back in front, by 16 points to 14.
That was how it stayed until the break, although Sale came close to regaining the lead after Charlie Davies was shown a yellow card, seconds before the whistle. The visitors turned down another kick at goal, preferring to go down for a scrum. A try looked likely, but the Wasps defence pressured them into a handling error, in the final play of the half.
One minutes after the restart, Wasps suffered another blow, when Will Taylor was shown the yellow card, after a Sale drive was brought down a few metres from the line. The visitors took immediate advantage, with an unstoppable surge from the next lineout, which ended with Sam Tuitupou applying the final touch. Despite slipping and falling as he made contact, Cipriani added the conversion.
Things went from bad to worse for Wasps, when Sale won a lineout on the home 22. Play moved infield and hooker Tommy Taylor produced a surprising burst of speed to power his way over for the bonus point try, which Cipriani again converted, to give his side a 12-point cushion, at 28-16.
Cipriani then gave the home crowd a reminder of his attacking skills, after a loop move in midfield. He came round to take the return pass and accelerate round the defence, to dive over in the corner for a fine try, which he was unable to convert.
A long-range Bell penalty fell short and wide, before Wasps made a series of substitutions. Stephen Jones set the home side roaring, when he ghosted through the Sale defence, to launch an attack from a fine run by Tommy Bell, who beat a series of defenders before finally stopped a few metres short. The ball was then moved out to the left and Tom Varndell came agonisingly close to going over in the corner.
Wasps were then denied, following a lineout and drive of their own crossed the line, but Sale managed to prevent the ball being grounded. From the scrum, they were finally rewarded, when Charlie Davies darted over by the posts. Tommy Bell’s conversion narrowed the gap to 10 points, inside the final ten minutes.
Wasps threw everything into a final assault, and a well-angled run by Hayter almost split the defence. The continued pressure saw Aston Croall sin-binned, three minutes from time, as Sale conceded a series of penalties near their line. With just ten seconds left, Sam Jones picked up from the base of a scrum and dived over. Tommy Bell’s conversion was the final act of the afternoon.
With their LV=Cup participation now over for the season, Wasps return to Aviva Premiership next weekend, when they take on Harlequins at the Stoop. The following weekend, on Sunday the 17th, they are back at Adams Park, for a visit from Gloucester.
Wasps Team:15 Tommy Bell 14 Jack Wallace 13 Jonah Holmes 12 Charlie Hayter 11 Tom Varndell 10 Stephen Jones 9 Charlie Davies 1 Zak Taulafo 2 Nathan Morris 3 Will Taylor 4 James Cannon 5 Marco Wentzel 6 Tinus Du Plessis 7 Matt Everard 8 Sam Jones (c)
Replacements:16 Tom Lindsay 17 Simon McIntyre 18 Harry Williams 19 Will Rowlands 20 Jonathan Poff 21 Stuart Commins 22 Will Robinson 23 Chris Bell
Sale Team:15 Cameron Shepherd 14 Rob Miller 13 Johnny Leota 12 Sam Tuitupou (c ) 11 Charlie Amesbury 10 Danny Cipriani 9 Dwayne Peel 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Tom Taylor, 3 Henry Thomas, 4 Tom Holmes, 5 Kearnan Myall, 6 James Doyle, 7 Daniel Braid, 8 James Gaskell
Replacements:16 Marc Jones, 17 Aston Croall, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Billy Emerson, 20 Tom Cruse, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Jordan Davies, 23 Charlie Ingall