Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks claim crucial 21-17 victory over European rivals Wasps
Last Updated: 01/03/14 6:15pm
Sale gave their hopes of European qualification a significant shot in the arm as they ground out a hard-fought 21-17 victory over rivals Wasps at Adams Park.
The Sharks remain in sixth position in the Aviva Premiership table, but crucially they have extended their lead over Wasps - in seventh - by a further three points, which leaves them with a handy eight-point advantage over their nearest challengers.
The game's most controversial moment arrived after just ten minutes with the sin-binning of Joe Simpson. The Wasps scrum-half high-tackled Nick Macleod who took no further part in the game - the incident was reviewed and a yellow card was awarded, but Simpson may have been fortunate not to pick up a red.
Sale scored ten points in Simpson's absence, Danny Cipriani kicking a penalty and a conversion to add to Dan Braid's try before Wasps rallied to score 17 unanswered points. Joe Carlisle kicked four penalties before Simpson raced away for his side's only try.
But the final quarter saw the Sale pack dominate and they recovered from 17-10 down with an unconverted Johnny Leota try before Cipriani kicked two penalties in the final 20 minutes to secure victory.
Sale were on the board first following Simpson's reckless challenge on Macleod, Cipriani slotting the first of his three penalties from the halfway line following the infringement.
Simpson was still absent when Sale scored the game's opening try after 15 minutes; Mark Cueto chipped ahead on the half-way line, the ball ran loose and Braid was on hand to race 20 metres to touch down, Cipriani converting.
Simpson returned just in time to see Carlisle put Wasps on the scoreboard with a penalty and the outside half added two more in quick succession to reduce the arrears to just a single point.
Wasps trailed 10-9 at the interval but dominated the opening period of the second half and were rewarded with a fourth penalty from Carlisle which edged them ahead for the first time.
After 49 minutes the hosts would add their only try. An aimless kick from Cipriani was neatly collected by Ashley Johnson, the flanker then fed wing Will Helu whose quick pass sent Simpson on a 40-metre dash to the line.
Sale soon responded when Wasps carelessly lost a line-out in their own 22 to enable replacement, Mark Jones, to drive forward and put the home defence on the back foot. Cipriani took full advantage by selling a neat dummy to send Leota over in the corner.
After 58 minutes, Andy Goode was introduced in place of Carlisle, just before Cipriani put his side back in front with a penalty.
The replacement fly-half soon had a long-range penalty chance of his own, but his attempt drifted wide as Sale kept their one-point advantage going into the final 10 minutes.
That proved to be the home side's last real opportunity with a third penalty from Cipriani, four minutes from the end, ensuring a vital victory for Sale.
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 Round 16
Manu Tuilagi was delighted to return to action after a five-month absence in Leicester's 41-18 win at Newcastle.
Leicester came from behind to record a bonus point 41-18 Aviva Premiership victory over Newcastle.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was delighted with his side after their 21-17 Aviva Premiership victory at Wasps.