Walder pinches last-kick victory in duel with Hodgson

Sale 24 Wasps 25
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The Independent Online

Wasps will be ordering the beer and pizzas in after this one. Especially the pizzas.

Last November, Wasps eschewed this fixture in favour of staying on the team bus eating Domino's finest as they argued that the Edgeley Park pitch was too waterlogged for the encounter to take place.

New drainage at the ground meant that despite a day-long downpour yesterday, this encounter went ahead with ease and how happy Wasps were that that was the case as Dave Walder's brilliant last minute drop-goal helped them win a match the boot had dominated.

Charlie Hodgson, the returning Sale Sharks fly-half, was in imperious form as he slotted eight penalties to register all of Sale's points but Walder ruined his evening's work and laughed last and loudest with a crucial intervention.

"It was a bloody professional job," Wasps director of rugby Tony Hanks said. "It's five years since we won here so we know it is a difficult place to come. With Walder it wasn't just his goalkicking and control but his defence, too, they targeted him and he did a great job."

Four penalties apiece for the fly-halves ensured there was nothing between the two sides at the interval after a half that had been tight, tense and bruising in the extreme. Hodgson repeatedly picked out Wasps' lightweight looking fullback Richard Haughton whose vulnerability under the high ball was not helped by being crunched in several wince-inducing tackles. Those gave Sale valuable momentum and lifted spirits in their pack but they could not take full advantage of that which ultimately cost them.

Shabby discipline from Wasps' Ben Broster at the restart gave Hodgson his fifth successful kick of the evening to make it 15-12 and further carelessness at the breakdown allowed him to kick another, by far his best, from 55 metres.

However, Wasps showed admirable tenacity as Dan Ward-Smith bundled over for the only try while Walder's extras ensured the scoreboard swung back in the visitors' favour at 18-19. Hodgson wrestled Sale back in front with two quickfire penalties, before Walder pounced, kicking a penalty before Wasps muscled him into the perfect position for a drop-goal which he comfortably landed to confirm a stunning win. And who had given Wasps the field position for the drop courtesy of a knock-on? Hodgson himself. Life can be cruel.

"Dave Walder stuck at their gameplan for 80 minutes and that won them the game," Sale head coach Mike Brewer said. "Charlie didn't manage the game as he should have and I will speak to him about that because I'm disappointed."

Sale: Williams; Brady, Cohen, Tuilagi, Cueto; Hodgson, Peel; Wihongi, Briggs, Forster (Croall,77), Rouse, Gaskell (capt), Fearns, McMillan, Ormsby.

Wasps: Haughton; Varndell, Jacobs, Waldouck, Lemi; Walder, Simpson (Berry 73); Payne (Beech 22), Ward (Webber 52), Broster (Ruwers 75), Ward-Smith, Birkett, Worsley (Ward 62-79, Worsley 79), Rees (capt), Powell.

Referee: D Rose (RFU).