Wasps find a late sting

Sale 9 Wasps 18: Pilkington Cup fourth round: Sale's spirit is dampened at the last as Orrell's tenacity goes unrewarded
Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE tension of this cup-tie, rather than the manner in which it was played, made Heywood Road the place to be yesterday. For so long Wasps appeared powerless to break down the opposition and for a long time it appeared that Sale would cling on. But like last season, when Sale's Cup run was ended by a last-minute Leicester kick, it was only in the dying moments that the victory slipped from their grasp.

First Lawrence Dallaglio forced his way over to edge Wasps ahead. Then Andy Gomarsall ran through from the back of a scrum and Wasps were in the clear. This was, indeed, a deserved victory: Wasps were shorn of many of their first choice threequarters - Damian Hopley, Nick Greenstock and Shane Roiser were all injured. And so it was in the forwards that they ground their way ahead. Sale never stretched their lead further than six points and it was too little to defend given the measure of superiority that Wasps built up as the second half ticked away.

Wasps playing Sale had looked a spectator's dream, but two running, passing sides managed just that pair of Wasps tries between them. The try count, however, told little of the story, only that the teams were such a close match, a factor which became apparent as they surged up and down the pitch, neither side reaching the try line and both spilling and knocking on - perhaps a reflection of their recent absence from serious action - in the process.

The intention was there, nevertheless. Wasps played it tighter than their home opponents, but there was handling aplenty and the master of it all was, as ever at Heywood Road, the evergreen Paul Turner, full of tricks but yesterday not quite the magic required. Not that there was any absence of heroes in the visiting side. Dallaglio has revelled in the responsibilities of the club captaincy and England call-up, and yesterday he was a leader in every sense, devouring yards of space with every rampaging drive into the opposition flanks.

It was on the half-hour that Dallaglio gave notice of what was to come, two long thrusts during a sustained forward move in which Dunn, Kinsey and White all carried the ball, their efforts taking it within reach of the tryline but no further. This was as close as Wasps got to a point in the first half, Sale making use of their early dominance with two penalties from Rob Liley, but Wasps unable to reply.

The second half, however, was far more in Wasps control. They drew level with two penalties, but no sooner had Guy Gregory knocked over the second of these then Sale had gone ahead again with another penalty from Liley. This set up the thrilling conclusion, Gregory missing with two drop-goals before Dallaglio finally edged Wasps ahead, driving over from the back of a maul. Even then, Sale had a glimpse of the honours but Liley's missed penalty was their last chance.

For five minutes, Wasps had to hold out; indeed, they managed to make it look easy. In desperation, Turner tried all manner of options, but when the last trick had fallen from his sleeve Wasps made sure of it with their second try. A scrum was given five metres out, Gomarsall picked up, ran and broke the cover to score. The final whistle followed a great conversion by Gregory and the victory was Wasps.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); R Liley, J Baxendell, M Birt, C Yates; P Turner, C Saverimutto; A Yates, S Diamond, A Smith, J Fowler, D Baldwin, P Hewitt, N Ashurst, C Vyvyan.

Wasps: J Ufton; P Hopley, L Scrace, A James, S Hunter; G Gregory, A Gomarsall; D Molloy, K Dunn, I Dunston, M Greenwood, R Kinsey, M White, L Dallaglio (capt), P Scrivener.

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire).