Sale leave it late to beat Wasps
May 4, 2013
Sale's Johnny Leota attempts to breach the Wasps defence
© Getty Images
A late penalty from Nick MacLeod was enough to give Sale a 21-20 win over Wasps at the Salford City Stadium on Saturday.
Christian Wade took his tally to 13 Aviva Premiership tries but could not prevent Wasps from going down 21-20 to Sale at the Salford City Stadium. Neither Sale nor Wasps were playing for anything other than pride, but they served up an entertaining first half as the hosts took a 12-7 lead.
Tom Brady and Dan Braid went over for the Sharks while Wade added to his burgeoning reputation with yet another try. Nick Macleod kicked two penalties after the interval to go with his earlier conversion, but Wade's second score - putting him level with team-mate Tom Varndell - aided by 10 points from the boot of Tommy Bell gave Dai Young's men a 20-18 advantage late on. It was not to be for the visitors, though, as Macleod kicked his third three-pointer five minutes from time to snatch the win.
Although these sides had nothing to play for, both teams started with intent to move the ball through the phases, but it was the Sharks who controlled the opening exchanges. With their pack carrying well and Dave Seymour and Braid difficult to shackle at the breakdown, Wasps struggled to get hold of the ball in the first 10 minutes. It was therefore no surprise to see Steve Diamond's men take the lead when a fine move ended in Brady touching down.
Scrum-half Dwayne Peel was the instigator and two wrap-around moves with Marc Jones and Kearnan Myall freed the space for Braid to send the left-winger over. However, the visitors' response was swift. Billy Vunipola, playing his last game before joining Saracens, was typically bustling and made several dents in Sale's rearguard.
That pressure eventually led to a penalty which half-back Joe Simpson took quickly. His sniping instincts took him past the home side's first-up defence and Wade was on his shoulder to finish superbly. It was the 24-year-old's 12th Premiership try of the season, which will surely see him in Stuart Lancaster's England squad to face Argentina in June.
Bell, making a rare start because of injuries to Nicky Robinson and Stephen Jones, then added the conversion as the High Wycombe-based outfit went 7-5 ahead. But throughout the opening period, Wasps struggled to deal with the blustery conditions and a mistake from Simpson at the restart immediately put them on the back foot.
From the resulting lineout the ball was collected under pressure by visiting back row Ashley Johnson, but the Sharks' pack drove over the top and Braid was on hand to touch down from close range. Macleod was this time on target from the tee as they went into the break with a 12-7 advantage.
Sale started the second half like they finished the first, dominating the close-quarter exchanges and looking to get their strike runners over the gain-line. Despite controlling proceedings, Wasps held firm and a penalty from the hosts' stand-off was all they had to show for their efforts.
And the Sharks were made to pay for their profligacy when, with their first attack of the half, Wade went over for his second of the afternoon. It was Hugo Southwell who made the initial incursion before Chris Bell took the ball up further. The play was shifted wide for the wing to cross the whitewash.
Macleod and Tommy Bell then traded penalties before the latter put Wasps into a 20-18 lead with seven minutes to go. However, Sale's fly-half was the hero when his third penalty bisected the uprights.
Sale Sharks' director of rugby Steve Diamond admits that he was disappointed with their performance/ "We didn't play well second half. We got the ascendancy in the first half and they did well from a couple of breakaway tries," he said. "I thought we lost our composure in the second half but again it's difficult. We'd had a lot of ball in the first period and just couldn't convert those drives in the last minute.
"We didn't play very well to be honest so it was a bit quiet in the dressing room. I don't think we were helped by the referee, there was a lack of communication from his touch judges and they were able to spoil a lot of our driving play."
Wasps' director of rugby Dai Young allayed fears over lock Joe Launchbury who has struggled with a slight injury since England's defeat to Wales in the Six Nations. "Basically he's got a neck injury but it's nothing surgical and it doesn't need operating on. Let's be honest, he's battered," he said.
"He's had a hell of a season and you've got a kid there that goes above and beyond the call of duty on occasions. He's gone out there and put his body on the line for big periods, he's got a bit of a stiff neck and a sore shoulder.
"He's at no risk of an operation or being out for any length of time. He is a little bit battered and bruised at the minute and he probably deserves a rest. I'm sure that he'll be ready to go to Argentina with England if required."
Wasps' Christian Wade scores one of his two tries © Getty Images
© 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