Rugby Union: Wasps scent the land of milk and honey

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN EVANS

Wasps 25 Sale 16

There is a bit of a puzzle at Wasps: the plaques on the doors of its hospitality rooms read like a Fortune magazine list of corporate wealth. There are big airlines, big banks and big brewers - all adding up to big bucks.

But not yet to any big deal to inject the kind of cash they will need to thrive in the new professional world. Others have got their hands on mountains of money: Bath becomes a company, Harlequins have turned Japanese for NEC's sponsorship and Saracens have found a benign millionaire.

At Wasps, they are treading cautiously. The Club Council meets this week, aware of the pitfalls of gaining funds to redevelop the small, suburban ground and the side, only to lose a congenial club atmosphere and tight team spirit.

That playing spirit was clear on Saturday when it took Wasps a stride towards big-time European rugby next season as they beat a difficult, gritty Sale. It was not spectacular but it was effective, with untidy tries scored by the flanker, Buster White, centre Nick Greenstock and wing Laurence Scrace. Guy Gregory kicked two penalties and two conversions.

Sale had no real answer. A single try when the scrum-half, Christian Saverimutto, crossed was no more than a consolation. Rob Liley converted and added three penalties to make the score respectable.

Part of Sale's problem was that their not-so-secret weapon, Paul Turner, was hemmed in by an effective, determined Wasps back-row. Typically, the Sale rot started when Turner tried to be too clever and had a kick charged down by White, with the flanker then grounding the ricochet.

Then there was Lawrence Dallaglio on the other flank. Apart from his physical presence, he has contributed hugely to keeping life in the side after its heart was ripped out by the defection of the clutch of British Lions and lesser internationals.

Rob Smith, Wasps' coach, said: "Lawrence has done a major job - massive." Smith felt a corner was turned on Saturday after the thumping defeat by Harlequins. He has Norman Hadley coming back after injury and next season Glyn Llewellyn from Neath takes the other second-row berth.

Smith said: "It's a club that lives on spirit and camaraderie. That's the one thing that's being challenged." Getting big money without losing the small club atmosphere will be the real test.

Wasps: Tries White, Greenstock, Scrace; Conversions Gregory 2; Penalties Gregory 2. Sale: Try Saverimutto; Conversion Liley; Penalties Liley 3.

Wasps: J Ufton; L Scrace, N Greenstock, D Hopley, S Roiser; G Gregory, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, A Orugboh, R Kinsey, M White, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); R Liley, J Baxendell, G Higginbotham, C Yates; P Turner, C Saverimutto; P Smith, S Diamond, A Yates, J Fowler, D Baldwin, P Hewitt, N Ashurst, C Vyvyan.

Referee: C White (Gloucester).

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