Sharks win Anglo Welsh opener despite late Wasps rally

On a soggy night at the AJ Bell Stadium, Wasps put in a battling display which was not quite enough to open their Anglo-Welsh campaign with a win. 

17 - 13
Sale Sharks Wasps

Fri 4th November 2016
8:15 pm

The AJ Bell Stadium Stadium Anglo-Welsh Cup As it happened
They led at halftime, but the second half saw the home side playing the difficult conditions well to go nine points clear.  Jacob Umaga’s debut try, ten minutes from time, gave Wasps the chance to snatch a victory, but a series of lost lineouts meant they were unable to break out of their own half, and they had to make do with a losing bonus point.

Heavy rain had been falling for several hours before kick off, but it had eased to a steady drizzle by the time the game started. Sale controlled the early possession, and put up a series of high kicks, which tested the Wasps defence. Good covering by Craig Hampson saved two dangerous situations.

Wasps posed their first threat when skipper Guy Thompson pounced on a Sale knock-on to make twenty metres, and take play up towards the home 22. With 12 minutes gone, Tom Cruse made ground down the right and passed inside to Brendan Macken. He took the ball into contact, and Sale were penalised for taking out Craig Hampson at the breakdown. Wasps went for touch, and a driving lineout made 15 metres, before the ball was released to the backs. They were unable to break the line, but the referee took play back for a penalty in front of the posts, and Conor Eastgate landed a simple kick to open the score.

Five minutes later, Sale took the lead following a penalty to the corner. The lineout drive went infield before splintering, and a further drive resulted in a try for Mark Jennings. Tom Arscott converted.

Wasps were soon back on the offensive, after a good kick by Connor Eastgate found touch in the Sale 22. The home side won the lineout, but good work by Jack Willis secured a scrum for Wasps, at which they won a penalty. The kick was sent to the corner, possession was secured, and the drive was gathering momentum when the ball was spilt, five metres from the line.

Twelve minutes before the break, Jack Willis showed good footwork to beat a defender and take play deep into the Sale 22, following untidy Wasps lineout possession.  Two penalties ensued, which were both sent to the corner, but a long throw at the second lineout failed to find the target and Sale were able to clear. By now, the heavy rain had returned. The slippery underfoot conditions were making things hard for the forwards, with every scrum ending in a penalty or free-kick. 

Five minutes before halftime, Wasps went ahead, through a superb piece of opportunism by Guy Thompson. Sale won a lineout on the Wasps ten-metre line, and the Wasps skipper got a hand to Mike Phillips’s pass to fly half Sam James. He flicked it up and re-gathered, before accelerating away for a spectacular try, from nearly 60 metres.  He saved himself the last few metres, by diving and using the wet surface to slide over the line. Connor Eastgate’s conversion attempt hit the outside of the left post.

Wasps came close to extending their lead, two minutes before haltime, when Craig Hampson broke round the blindside, from just inside his own half. He chipped towards the left corner, but the ball bounced away from him, as it entered the in-goal area. Guy Armitage was in hot pursuit, but was unable to touch down before the ball went dead. Halftime came with Wasps holding a narrow 8-7 lead.

Four minutes into the second half, Tom Howe came on for Nick De Luca, who had taken a knock on the head. A minute later, Alapati Leiua gathered a kick near his line and tried to run out of defence. He was immediately buried by tacklers, but Wasps managed to work the ball across the field, before finally taking the safe option of touch. Sale then put together an impressive passage of play, with a series of short passes taking play deep into the Wasps 22. With the referee playing advantage for a Sale penalty, Sam James threaded a precise grubber kick through the defence, and Sam Bedlow won the race to the touchdown. Tom Arscott converted, to give his side a 14-8 lead.

The home side were now playing with increased confidence and control. After 54 minutes, a lineout drive made 30 metres, taking play deep into the Wasps 22, where a penalty was conceded near the posts. Arscott landed the kick to stretch the lead to nine points.

With 22 minutes left, a triple change brought George Edgson, WIll Stuart and Jacob Umaga on for their Wasps senior debuts, taking the places of Tom Cruse, Phil Swainston and Connor Eastgate. Wasps were immediately put under pressure, when Tom Howe was penalised for not releasing after he went up to gather a high kick, 35 metres out, and 15 metres in from the right touchline.  It seemed a harsh decision, as he appeared to have been tackled while still in the air, but Tom Arscott’s kick went wide from 35 metres.

Sale were now playing a smart tactical game, mixing well-placed kicks behind the defence with close passing amongst the forwards. It was against the run of play when, ten minutes from time, Wasps came back into the game with a well-worked try, after George Edgson’s direct running created a gap for Jacob Umaga to race in from 25 metres. He was unable to land the conversion, leaving Wasps four points behind. Their best chance to set up an attacking position was lost, when Sale stole a lineout just inside the Wasps half.  Two minutes from time, a Sale penalty was kicked to the corner, but Wasps stopped the lineout drive, to win a penalty of their own. They again lost the lineout, ten metres from halfway, and Sale were able to play out the closing seconds, before clearing to touch, to secure the win.

Sale Sharks Line ups

  1. Ross Harrison
  2. Cameron Neild
  3. Brian Mujati
  4. Andrey Ostrikov
  5. Lou Reed
  6. Ben Curry
  7. Tom Curry
  8. Laurence Pearce
  9. Mike Phillips
  10. Sam James
  11. Charlie Ingall
  12. Mark Jennings
  13. Sam Bedlow
  14. Neville Edwards
  15. Tom Arscott
  16. Curtis Langdon
  17. James Flynn
  18. Ciaran Parker
  19. George Nott
  20. Matt Rogerson
  21. James Mitchell
  22. Dan Mugford
  23. Josh Charnley

Wasps Line ups

  1. Tom Bristow
  2. Tom Cruse
  3. Phil Swainston
  4. Marcus Garratt
  5. Will Rowlands
  6. Jack Willis
  7. Alex Rieder
  8. Guy Thompson
  9. Craig Hampson
  10. Connor Eastgate
  11. Guy Armitage
  12. Brendan Macken
  13. Nick De Luca
  14. Alapati Leiua
  15. Owain James
  16. George Edgson
  17. Tom West
  18. Will Stuart
  19. Ehize Ehizode
  20. Alistair Bone
  21. William Porter
  22. Jacob Umaga
  23. Tom Howe