Sale crisis deepens after Wasps defeat
December 23, 2012
Wasps condemn Sale to 10th defeat of Premiership campaign
Sale Sharks' miserable season continued as they suffered a 25-18 defeat to London Wasps at Adams Park.
Despite securing a losing bonus-point, the visitors' 10th defeat of the season leaves them five points adrift of London Irish and 13 behind London Welsh at the foot of the Premiership table at the midway point of the campaign.
Sale, who suffered a record Heineken Cup defeat in losing 62-0 at Toulon last weekend, outscored Wasps two tries to one through efforts from Richie Vernon and Johnny Leota. However, it was Wasps who took the spoils thanks to a try from Rhys Thomas, 14 points from the boot of Stephen Jones and further penalties from Elliot Daly and Nicky Robinson.
Wasps No.8 Billy Vunipola was the star performer, impressing with his powerful running and his ball handling skills, and it was he who set up the crucial try for Thomas with an outstanding piece of play.
After last weekend's mauling by Toulon, Danny Cipriani was omitted from the Sale line-up with Tom Varndell absent for Wasps with a foot injury.
After an error-ridden opening 10 minutes, Wasps had the first chance for points with Jones making no mistake with a simple penalty. Moments later, Sale had their first opportunity which Nick MacLeod failed to take as he was narrowly wide with his penalty attempt.
The first 20 minutes saw Wasps have the better of possession and territory, with bursts from back rowers Vunipola and Ashley Johnson testing the visitors' defence but it held firm and the score remained at 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Sale were under pressure in the scrum area and after 22 minutes they conceded a penalty allowing Jones to make it 6-0. When Wasps were penalised on halfway, Rob Miller stepped up to take the kick instead of Macleod and it proved a wise choice as the full back fired it over to halve the deficit.
Then, from nowhere, Sale produced a moment of real quality to score the opening try. Richie Vernon's clever pass sent powerful centre Sam Tuituopou away on a 40-metre break, beating off two defenders in the process. The ball was quickly recycled for Vernon to outflank the cover for the try.
Although Macleod missed the conversion that try gave Sale increased confidence and they were the better side for the remainder of the half. They nearly scored a second try but Joe Simpson saved the day for Wasps by getting back to haul down Mark Jennings after Hugo Southwell's kick went straight into wing's hands.
Despite Sale looking on top, Wasps reclaimed the lead in the 36th minute when Daly hammered over a penalty from five metres inside his own half, although that should have been quickly nullified by Miller but he made a hash of his penalty attempt to allow the home side a 9-8 interval lead.
Wasps boss Dai Young reflects on his side's triumph
Early in the second half, Jones kicked two penalties to one from Miller to extend Wasps' advantage before the hosts scored a splendid try. Vunipola burst away from a scrum on halfway to elude two defenders on a 50-metre run before being hauled down just short of the line.
Wasps secured possession for Thomas to crash over for the try which Jones converted to give the home side a healthy 22-11 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Sale showed considerable spirit to have their best passage of play which ended with Wasps wing Christian Wade managing to deprive replacement prop Tony Buckley of a try by forcing him into the corner flag.
Miller had a further penalty chance but surprisingly missed from 25 metres before Robinson's late effort gave Wasps some leeway. Sale had the final say when Leota crashed over for a try which Miller converted with the last kick of the game to secure a bonus point for the visitors, although they remain adrift at the bottom of the table.
"We were below par and that's the worst we've played in the last four-to-six weeks," commented Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young. "We found a way to win but there is still a lot of improvement to find. If we had played one of the top four in the Premiership today we would have come unstuck. However, it's a measure of how far we've come as last season we would have been incapable of playing poorly and still winning."
Sale boss John Mitchell remained positive despite his side's 10th defeat of the Premiership campaign. "The bonus point has pushed us closer to London Irish just above us. They are just in front of us and not a long way off so we have our destiny and we have to deal with what's in front of us." said Mitchell.
However, Mitchell was critical of the way his side let the game slip. "We left nine points out there with missed kicks, there was a soft breach in our defence for their try and their kicking game was better than ours with our 9-10 and 15 letting us down there as their execution wasn't good enough," he added.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin