Flawless Cipriani kicking proves a point to England

Wasps 22 Sale 16

Unlike a certain Jonny Wilkinson, Danny Cipriani didn't miss a kick yesterday. Six times the England discard teed up the ball, and six times it bisected the posts. The best, hit from no more than a foot inside the half-way line, sailed a long way over the crossbar. "It's probably still going now," said Tony Hanks, the Wasps director of rugby.

Cipriani's kicking aside, however, the home team rode their luck a little, chiefly by being the right side of the decisions which mattered. Tom Varndell's first-half run down the left touchline was impressively elusive, but there appeared to be no doubt at all his one-handed gridiron-style attempt to pass to Ben Jacobs bounced a long way forward before Warren Fury picked up to send Jacobs over in the corner.

In the same way referee Rob Debney's decision to send Eifion Lewis-Roberts to the sin bin when the Sale prop had appeared to wrest possession cleanly in the tackle was crucial. With 12 minutes remaining the Sharks had the momentum after Charlie Hodgson's kick had bounced away from the Wasps full-back Mark van Gisbergen, and Marika Vakacegu popped the ball up for Gavin Kerr to trundle over.

Sale's director of rugby, Kingsley Jones, normally the most restrained of men when it comes to post-match analysis, could not control his disappointment, suggesting the officials had made the difference.

"I thought it was a great try and we thoroughly deserved to win, we were all over them," he said. Hanks was less forthcoming on the state of negotiations between the club and Cipriani, who is out of contract at the end of the season and is reported to have been in contact with the new Super 14 franchise Melbourne Rebels.

If the 22-year-old does go to Australia, England manager Martin Johnson has made it clear he will be ruling himself out of international contention, and with Wilkinson wobbling and Toby Flood still yet to completely convince, Cipriani may yet be persuaded it is in his best interests to remain in Europe. Not that he was particularly outstanding yesterday, other than with his kicking off the floor. The fact that he was moved back to full-back when Dave Walder replaced Van Ginsbergen shortly before the end might have been taken as an indication of his lack of creativity.

This is an unsettling time for Wasps. As well as the uncertainty regarding Cipriani, they learnt last week that Paul Sackey will be heading for France. Although French clubs will have a salary cap for the first time next season, at £7m it is almost twice that of the Premiership clubs.

Wasps: Try Jacobs; Conversion Cipriani; Penalties Cipriani 5.

Sale: Try Kerr; Conversion Hodgson; Penalties Hodgson 2; Drop-goal Hodgson 78.

Wasps: Van Gisbergen (Walder 67); Sackey, Jacobs, Kefu, Varndell; Cipriani, Fury ; Taulafo, Webber, Broster (Baker 74), Veale, Skivington, Worsley, Betsen (Matthews 56), Ward-Smith Replacements; Ward, Bocca, Ellis, Honeyben, Lemi. Sale: Vakacegu; James, Bishop, Thomas, Cohen; Hodgson, Wigglesworth (Peel 74); Lewis-Roberts, Schwalger (Briggs 72), Halsall (Kerr 43), Schofield, Gaskell (Cox 37), Fearns (Ormsby 56), Seymour, Koyamaibole (Halsall 68).

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).

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