Wasps slip to defeat against hungry Sharks
Wasps struggles against bogey team Sale continued, as their former fly half Danny Cipriani kicked them to a 15-9 Aviva Premiership defeat.
Despite the presence of four former Sharks among their matchday 23, Wasps never looked at home at a rain-lashed AJ Bell Stadium, as their losing run in Manchester extended to six matches.
On a night when tries were at a premium, and handling errors proliferated, Sale implemented their gameplan to much better effect than the misfiring visitors. They successfully bombarded Wasps’ back three with high kicks, in addition to scrapping hard on the floor and edging the setpiece contest.
However, it was the presence of England hopeful Cipriani in the No.10 shirt which proved the differential between the teams. In addition to his perfect five-from-five kicking display, Wasps’ former fly half’s game management was outstanding. His often-criticised defence also proved reliably solid, and he must feature prominently on new England coach Eddie Jones’ radar for next month’s Six Nations.
Wasps edged a narrow 6-3 half time lead thanks to Elliot Daly’s snap drop goal on the stroke of the interval. The centre spun and slotted a close-range effort from just inside the hosts’ 22 to give the visitors some reward for their best attack of the half.
Sale had earlier used the wet conditions better, playing a very direct brand of rugby, intelligently prompted by Cipriani. The former Wasp displayed his full-range of kicking skills, and in particular posed problems with some neat chips which skidded off the saturated surface. Sale took the lead after Wasps twice conceded field position by kicking out on the full. Cipriani slotted a 35 metre penalty when Sam Jones was penalised for side entry at a ruck.
The hosts then missed a golden opportunity to extend their lead after Tom Arscott escaped down the left. The winger was unable to find his inside support, then after the Sharks quickly recycled, their midfield squandered a big overlap. Wasps also missed their only try-scoring chance of the half, when full back Rob Miller was brilliantly tackled by covering full back Mike Haley.
The former Shark was released by Daly’s superb break, but the TMO ruled his attempted grounding unsuccessful. However, this gave Wasps a foothold in Sale territory, and Jimmy Gopperth brought them level with a fine 40 metre penalty when Sale infringed on the ground. Sam Jones in tackling action against Sale
The advantage provided by Daly’s drop goal lasted 15 minutes into the second period. A raking touchfinder from Cipriani put Sale deep into Wasps’ territory and although they repelled the initial attack Sale eventually won a scrum penalty, which the fly half slotted over. A prolonged period of Wasps pressure followed, but the opportunity created by some excellent handling was lost when the visitors went off their feet at the breakdown. Wasps were forced to concede a close-range lineout, and when Sale won a penalty at the resulting maul, Cipriani put the hosts back in front.
When Piutau recoverd his own high kick, Kearnan Myall released James Haskell, only for Wasps’ skipper to be brought down five metres out. However, Sale infringed on the ground and Gopperth’s penalty brought Wasps back on terms. The hosts thought they had scored a try with seven minutes remaining, only to be denied by the TMO. Replacement scrum half Peter Stringer dived over from close range when Wasps failed to recover a Cipriani Garryowen, but after a long interlude he was ruled not to have grounded the ball. However, the referee returned for an earlier penalty, which Cipriani calmly accepted with an angled 35 metre kick, and the England hopeful then clinched the spoils with a neat drop goal two minutes from time.
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