Rugby Union: Wasps run riot

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The Independent Online
Wasps. .52

Sale. . 22

IT PROBABLY was not the game for Sale's inspirational outside-half, Paul Turner, to sit on the bench in the interest of giving experience to his young understudy.

Or then again, perhaps it was. What on earth could he have done alone against the glorious adventure of a rampant Wasps side set on running in the sun? All told, nine tries were scored - six by the Londoners, three by the men from outside Manchester - but that statistic disguises the totality of Wasps' win.

The honours officially went to the Wasps centre, Damian Hopley, with his hat-trick, and the outside-half, Rob Andrew, for kicking 22 points, but really it was a magnificent demonstration of skilful, 15-man rugby.

Wasps gave Sale a hard lesson with everyone from the front-row back showing deft passing touches and vigorous running. It was not that Sale were unwilling; it was just that Wasps were sharper, moving the ball a microsecond before the tackler arrived.

But what Turner had done was to give Sale enough backbone and determination to refuse to break when they were bent backwards.

As Wasps threatened to run away with the game, Sale hit back with a couple of tries that reminded them that there were two sides on the field. Credit goes to the two centres, Jos Baxendell and Gareth Stocks, for capitalising on Wasps' laxity in broken play.

But both efforts ran completely against the play. Wasps had already built a victory on a complete forward performance: a strong-running back-row, ably abetted by a lively front row; the big Canadian Norman Hadley invariably delivered good line-out ball. He and his comrade in the second row, Richard Kinsey, thrived on the heavyweight charge, Kinsey getting just reward for quiet efforts with the closing try.

With the kind of silver service delivered by the Wasps pack, the backs served up a feast. The scrum-half, Steve Bates, and Andrew outside him, at the end of a long pass, controlled play perfectly.

And when they let the ball go they had the potent strike force of the Hopley brothers - Damian getting his hat-trick - all in the second half - and Phil finishing off a crisp movement in the first half.

And, of course, Andrew kicked the goals which also included a drop goal.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, G Childs, D Hopley, S Pilgrim; R Andrew, S Bates (capt); D Molloy, P Delaney, I Dunston, R Kinsey, N Hadley, M Greenwood, C Wilkins, L Dallaglio.

Sale: J Mallinder; S Verbickas, J Baxendell, G Stocks, M Appleson; R Liley, C Saverimutto; N Wheeler, S Diamond, A Smith, D Erskine, D Baldwin, M Kenrick (capt), N Ashurst, C Vyvyan.

Referee: J R Wallis (Somerset).