Wasps 29 Sale 19: Cipriani finds kicking touch to keep Wasps on the up

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The Independent Online

Wasps' remarkable surge up the table continued last night. This thrilling win saw them leapfrog their opponents of last night into the fourth play-off place.

At the end of the Rugby World Cup in October they were 10th in the Premiership, but they have since won 10 matches and this latest was their seventh on the trot, the best in the Premiership this season.

But victory in this match came at a price as Wasps lost the England captain, Phil Vickery, with a knee injury. The prop overbalanced when receiving a pass from hooker Raphael Ibanez and suffered a hyperflexion of his right knee. He managed one scrum after that then limped out of the fray. Then during the half-time warm-up Wasps lost their flanker Tom Rees with what appeared to be a hip injury.

Initially Wasps managed to breach the Sale line only courtesy of Sale full-back Ben Foden's long pass intended for right winger Mark Cueto. The sharp-eyed Tom Voyce plucked the ball from under Cueto's nose and raced upfield for his second try in successive Premiership matches.

Danny Cipriani converted, but missed penalty attempts either side of it. Sale had split kicking duties between Charlie Hodgson and All Black Luke McAlister. The England fly-half landed his one attempt, but the New Zealander failed with a long-range effort. Cipriani eventually mastered the art of penalty-kicks just before half-time to nose Wasps a little further ahead. It threatened to become a stroll after Paul Sackey's 47th-minute try, but the introduction of the England scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth gave Sale some impetus and two further penalties from Hodgson reminded Wasps how dangerous it was to transgress anywhere in their own half.

Joe Worsley was sent to the sin bin for the first of those kicks, but Sale were soon reduced to 14 men themselves when Oriol Ripol was shown a yellow card for killing the ball at the breakdown. It was while Worsley was off the field that Hodgson sent in Foden for Sale's only try, but three subsequent penalties by Cipriani denied Sale the bonus point which would have kept them in fourth.

Wasps: Tries Voyce, Sackey; Conversions Cipriani 2; Penalties Cipriani 5. Sale: Try Foden; Conversion Hodgson; Penalties Hodgson 4.

Wasps: J Lewsey; P Sackey, F Waters, R Flutey (M van Gisbergen, 76), T Voyce; D Cipriani, E Reddan; T Payne (T French, ht), R Ibanez (capt; J Ward, 62), P Vickery (P Barnard, 35), S Shaw, R Birkett, J Haskell, T Rees (J Worsley, h-t), J Hart.

Sale: B Foden; M Cueto, L McAlister, L Thomas (C Bell, 79), O Ripol (S Kuadey, 70); C Hodgson, S Martens (R Wigglesworth, 47); L Faure (E Roberts, ht), S Bruno (N Briggs, 22-36), S Turner, C Jones (N Briggs, 50), D Schofield, J White (capt; S Cox, 31), M Lund, N Bonner Evans (B Cockbain, h-t).

Referee: A Small (Bedfordshire).

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