Lawrence Dallaglio made his long-awaited return to English rugby when he replaced Mark Lock after 54 minutes of a cracking match at Heywood Road, moments after Alex King had restored Wasps' lead with a dropped goal. The former England captain, who has been out of the game for nine months after suffering a cruciate ligament injury, had a quiet rehabilitation and finished on the losing side after Anthony Elliott snatched victory for Sale with their third try, two minutes from time.
"I'm not good at being a bench player," Dallaglio said, "but I couldn't wait for the moment to get on. I only wished we had won. I thought we did enough to pinch the result, but we made too many mistakes in the dying minutes."
While Dallaglio's reappearance was the focus of attention, it has tended to obscure the happenings of the past few weeks at Wasps. Yesterday's match was Warren Gatland's first in charge. The man who has taken over as director of rugby from Nigel Melville was equally disappointed. "We talked in the week about keeping our discipline," Gatland said. "But we gave away too many penalties and couldn't hand Lawrence a result."
The pack has been Wasps' strength, though they were without Craig Dowd, which meant a step up for the England Under-21 prop Ali McKenzie. Sale, whose forwards have been their weakness, competed vigorously and provided their backs with a steady stream of good quality possession.
Sale attempted to play the game at pace, though whenever they allowed Wasps into their 22, they conceded scores. Hodgson kicked Sale into a six-point lead and, though King levelled matters with two penalties, a smart try by Mark Cueto, converted by Hodgson, took it to 13-6. But on their next visit to Sale's half, Wasps brought the sides level again when they worked Fraser Waters over for a try which King converted. Then they added two more penalties ahead of the break.
Hodgson restored Sale's advantage by converting Stuart Turner's try after the tight-head prop was driven across after a line-out. King's drop changed the lead for a third time. And then Elliot struck. Trevor Leota – who had a great game – was sent to the sin bin for obstruction. Sale moved the ball left for Elliott to cross in the left corner. Hodgson's conversion crowned a fine afternoon's work, which keeps Sale third in the table.
Sale: J Robinson (V Going, 53); M Cueto, M Deane, D Harris (S Hanley, 68), A Elliott; C Hodgson, B Redpath (capt); K Yates, A Titterrell (C Marais, 62), S Turner, I Fullarton, S Lines, C Jones, S Pinkerton, A Perelini (R Wilks, 14-24; 61).
Wasps: P Sampson; M Offiah (J Barrett, 78), F Waters, M Denney (capt), J Rudd (S Abbott, 61); A King, M Wood; A McKenzie, T Leota, W Green, S Shaw, I Jones (J Beardshaw, 53), M Lock (L Dallaglio, 54), P Volley, J Worsley.
Referee: D Pearson (Ashington, Northumberland).Reuse content