Hodgson hands loss to Wasps

Wasps 30 - Sale 33
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The Independent Online

Whatever the French is for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", clearly it is not the mantra of the new man in charge at Sale, Philippe Saint-André. Not only does he like to rotate his squad, making seven changes to the side that beat Leicester in the opening game of his second stewardship in England - the first was at Gloucester - he also likes to keep people guessing about where they will be playing during the game.

Whatever the French is for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", clearly it is not the mantra of the new man in charge at Sale, Philippe Saint-André. Not only does he like to rotate his squad, making seven changes to the side that beat Leicester in the opening game of his second stewardship in England - the first was at Gloucester - he also likes to keep people guessing about where they will be playing during the game.

Yesterday he had his captain, Jason Robinson, playing both full-back and on the wing; a prop, Andrew Sheridan, also playing second-row; and a hooker, Andy Titterrell, playing in the back row.

In the end, it was Sale's conventional England stand-off, Charlie Hodgson, with a late drop goal, and eight solid minutes of defence that gave Sale their second major win of the season. For Wasps, this was a deeply disappointing second defeat.

Having almost made Twickenham their home at the end of last season, and having kicked off this season there last week, this was Wasps' first home game of the new campaign. A breezy but sunny afternoon was a perfect opportunity to say, "Hello, here's the silverware we won last season", and to welcome back a growing band of the faithful with a backlash victory to make up for last week's disappointment against Saracens.

For Sale, the French revolution comes on top of one already under way in the shape of a fitness programme being run by Nick Johnston. A former Combined Services player and a graduate of the Nottingham Trent Sports Science College, he has been masterminding the players' lives both on and off the pitch. It fits in with what is becoming an accepted style, especially in France, of using human battering rams, including the centres as extra flankers, to pulverise the opposition and then run in the points.

But Wasps know how to play the power game too, not least against the French, their line-out is solid, and they showed much more appetite for stringing passes together from the better attacking possession they were able to secure with the first-half wind at their backs.

So everything except the scoreboard said those first 40 minutes belonged to them. The television adjudicator said that Josh Lewsey had been held up by Jason Robinson before the Sale centre Robert Todd completed what was to be the first of three breakaway tries, supporting Hodgson on the counterattack. Then the Wasps front five, missing Craig Dowd and Simon Shaw, creaked a little and the departure of Paul Volley, plus the continuing weariness of Lawrence Dallaglio, gave the edge to the back-row work of a Sale side enjoying the combativeness of one of Saint-André's imports from his old club Bourgoin, Sébastien Chabal.

Still, there was entertainment by the litre as Tim Payne, Peter Richards and the debutant Matt Dawson for Wasps were countered by a pair of tries from the winger Steve Hanley, almost in Jonah Lomu mode, to add to Todd's earlier score.

Wasps: M van Gisbergen; J Lewsey, A Erinle, P Richards, T Voyce; A King (J Brooks, 46), M Dawson; T Payne, B Gotting (P Greening, 48), W Green (A McKenzie, 77), G Skivington (J Hart, 61), R Birkett, J Worsley, J O'Connor, L Dallaglio (capt).

Sale Sharks: J Robinson; M Cueto, J Baxendell, R Todd, S Hanley (M Hercus, 75); C Hodgson, S Martens (B Redpath, 48); A Sheridan, A Titterrell, S Turner (B Stewart, 60), P Caillet (T Woodman), D Schofield (J White, 54), C Jones, M Lund, S Chabal (S Bruno, 69).

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).

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