Rugby Union: Dallaglio in decline as Sale take command

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Wasps 22 Sale 38

When Brive watch a video of this match they might reflect that, after the claustrophobic attentions of Pontypridd, they have hit easy street. Wasps, who play the French club in the quarter-finals of the Heineken European Cup at Loftus Road next Sunday, yesterday lost their third Premiership match in a row, and that is as many as they conceded throughout last season when they secured the championship.

Sale, with only one league victory prior to this match, were too good for the Londoners and outscored them by four tries to one despite being on the wrong end of a penalty count by 20-6.

Even worse for Wasps is that the elevation of the England captaincy to Lawrence Dallaglio appears to have coincided with a decline in the hitherto impeccable standards of the flanker.

"We are not playing with any discipline or intelligence," Dallaglio said. "We are nowhere near our potential but we are not at crisis point."

He would certainly want to forget this performance. When Pat Sanderson, a member of an excellent back row, scored Sale's first try he broke through Dallaglio's attempted tackle. When David Rees got the second, it stemmed from Dallaglio being turned in a tackle and losing possession. And when Rees scored his second early in the second half, Dallaglio was one of the defenders who missed him.

Nor was that the final indignity for the Lion. From a Wasps restart, Dallaglio, who by now had lost his composure, blatantly ignored the ball and ran head long into David Erskine. It earned him a yellow card, his second in successive matches.

There were also yellow cards for Steve Diamond, the Sale captain, who began the match by fighting with his opposite number, and Adrian Hadley, the latter after committing a high tackle on Nick Greenstock. In every other respect Hadley was extremely effective, having a hand in two of the tries and regularly beating defenders.

Wasps, whose defence of the championship now appears to be over before it has really begun, are clearly missing their first choice half-backs, Andy Gomarsall and Alex King, but yesterday they were found wanting in nearly every department.

In the programme notes the Wasps coaching staff said they expected the tackle count - which had dropped from the 60s in early September to the 30s against Saracens and London Irish - to soar. Instead, it dramatically declined and with more clinical finishing Sale could have doubled their number of tries.

Wasps: Try Wood; Conversion Rees; Penalties Rees 5. Sale: Tries Rees 2, Sanderson, Mannix; Penalties Howarth 3; Drop goal Howarth.

Wasps: G Rees; L Scrase, N Greenstock (D Hopley, 75), R Henderson, K Logan; G Gregory, M Wood; D Malloy, S Mitchell, I Dunston, M Weedon, S Shaw, L Dallaglio (capt), C Sheasby, M White.

Sale: J Mallender; D Rees, S Howarth, A Hadley, T Beim; S Mannix, K Ellis; P Winstanley, S Diamond (capt), M Driver (D Williamson 64), S Raiwalui, D Baldwin, D Erskine, C Vyvyan, P Sanderson.

Referee: C White (RFU).