Wasps claw back a losing bonus point at the AJ Bell

31-9 down after two minutes of the second half, Wasps seemed to be on course for a crushing defeat. They then produced a stirring rally, scoring three fine tries to bring them tantalisingly close to an unlikely victory.

34 - 28
Sale Sharks Wasps

Sun 19th February 2017
3:00 pm

The AJ Bell Stadium Stadium Aviva Premiership As it happened
The losing bonus point means that they now lead the Premiership by six points, ahead of Saracens and Exeter.

The home side went ahead in the sixth minute, after Thomas Young was penalised for not rolling away from the breakdown. Skipper Will Addison, whose powerful run had set up the penalty, landed the kick from the Wasps ten-metre line, almost in front of the posts.

Wasps were back on level terms three minutes later, after Josh Bassett came off his wing to make good ground in midfield. James Gaskell and Matt Mullan both put in strong bursts, to take play close to the line. When the attack came back infield, Sale were penalised in front of the posts, giving Jimmy Gopperth the simplest of kicks.

Two minutes later, a poor kick by Sam James made no ground and Sale were caught offside when it bounced in midfield. From 40 metres, Jimmy Gopperth was again on target, to put Wasps in front.

Wasps immediately put themselves on the back foot, when they failed to control the restart. Magnus Lund’s charge took them deep into the 22. They pounded at the line, with a series of close-range drives before Wasps won a turnover, only to deliver a forward pass, giving Sale an attacking scrum. To Wasps’ relief, it won them a penalty to relieve the pressure.

Sale were soon back inside the Wasps 22, following another breakdown penalty, just inside Wasps territory. Quick ball was won from the lineout, and Denny Solomona came off his wing to power his way through a hole in midfield and touch down between the posts. Addison’s conversion made the score 10-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Wasps pulled back three points a minute later, when Jimmy Gopperth landed his third successful penalty, from a breakdown offence 35 metres out, just to the left of the posts.

With neither side finding any fluency, there was little to stir the crowd, until TJ Ioane produced a powerful run, seven minutes before halftime. It came to nothing and a superb high take by Kurtley Beale then gave Wasps the chance to counterattack strongly, through Danny Cipriani and Tommy Taylor.

Four minutes before the break, Sale stretched their lead through Denny Solomona’s second try. He was given the ball out wide on the right and chipped infield. Christian Wade appeared to have it covered, but lost his footing, as he turned to gather. The ball bounced favourably for Solomona, who went over between the posts, and Addison added the easy conversion to take the score to 17-9. With just over a minute of the half left, Solomona completed his hat-trick, after quick passing in midfield gave him a simple run-in to the right corner. Addison converted from the touchline, to give the home side a comfortable and well-deserved 24-9 halftime lead.

Failure to control the second half restart meant Wasps were immediately under pressure, and it took only two minutes for Sale to add their bonus point try, with Mark Jennings touching down after an unstoppable lineout drive near the left corner. Addison kept up his 100% record with another well-struck conversion, to put his side 31-9 ahead. 

The Sale skipper was then guilty of a basic handling error, to give Wasps a scrum, five metres from the posts. They moved the ball to the blindside, but a pass went astray, and Denny Solomona hacked downfield towards oceans of space. With defenders closing in on him, he tried to gather the awkwardly bouncing ball but knocked on on the 22. 

Eight minutes after half-time, Wasps finally burst into life with a quality try from Josh Bassett. After Alex Rieder made some hard yards in midfield, Christian Wade combined with Kurtley Beale who fed Bassett, over from the opposite wing, to go over near the posts. Jimmy Gopperth converted to narrow the deficit to 31-16.

This seemed to be the spark Wasps needed, as they added a second try through Ashley Johnson, after 54 minutes. It was the result of their best-sustained attack of the afternoon, begun when Tommy Taylor burst off a powerful driving lineout. The hooker then featured prominently in a multi-phased attack, which included a powerful charge by Jake Cooper-Woolley, before the ball was moved out to the left with Christian Wade appearing on the left wing, before the Wasps' skipper crashed over in the corner. With Jimmy Gopperth forced to leave the field with a blood injury, Danny Cipriani took on the conversion, but his kick drifted wide.

Sale steadied things with Will Addison’s 57th-minute penalty, to take the score to 34-21, at which point Willie Le Roux replaced Josh Bassett to make his Wasps debut. Wasps were now chancing their arm, but a knock-on inside the 22 gave Sale an excellent attacking position and they came close to a fifth try, before losing possession near the posts.

Twelve minutes from time, Wasps came roaring back into the game after a fine counter-attack sent Willie Le Roux racing away down the left. He passed inside to Kurtley Beale and the fullback went over for a fine try. Jimmy Gopperth added the conversion, to bring the score to 34-28 and set up a thrilling finale.

Wasps threw everything into a furious assault, which severely stretched the defence, before the ball was lost in contact and Sale were able to clear downfield. With four minutes left, a Sale knock-on gave Wasps a scrum just inside the home half. The ball was won and with Alex Rieder preparing to launch an attack, replacement scrum half Peter Stringer caught him in possession at the base of the scrum and he was penalised for not releasing. The penalty to the corner gave Sale the platform to run the clock down through over two minutes of controlled phase play and seal an impressive victory - their sixth in six Premiership clashes with Wasps at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Sale Sharks Line ups

  1. Ross Harrison
  2. Rob Webber
  3. Halani Aulika
  4. Bryn Evans
  5. George Nott
  6. TJ Ioane
  7. Magnus Lund
  8. Josh Beaumont
  9. Mike Phillips
  10. Sam James
  11. Byron McGuigan
  12. Mark Jennings
  13. Will Addison
  14. Denny Solomona
  15. Mike Haley
  16. Cameron Neild
  17. James Flynn
  18. Kieran Longbottom
  19. Tom Curry
  20. Ben Curry
  21. Peter Stringer
  22. AJ MacGinty
  23. Johnny Leota

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Jake Cooper-Woolley
  4. Matt Symons
  5. James Gaskell
  6. Ashley Johnson
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Alex Rieder
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Josh Bassett
  12. Kyle Eastmond
  13. Jimmy Gopperth
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Kurtley Beale
  16. Carlo Festuccia
  17. Simon McIntyre
  18. Martin Moore
  19. Will Rowlands
  20. Jack Willis
  21. Joe Simpson
  22. Alapati Leiua
  23. Willie Le Roux