Sale power past depleted Wasps in bonus-point win to leapfrog opponents in table

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Beginning 2022 in a lowly 11th place in the Premiership, Sale Sharks took a commanding first step to go “marching back up the table” in the words of director of rugby Alex Sanderson. 

Sharks were more like the team who finished third last season as they produced a commanding bonus-point dissection of injury-hit Wasps. 

In their first game for 20 days after a Covid-19 outbreak, Sale did all their damage in the opening 50 minutes before understandably coming off the pace with the game all but won. 

Their power was far too much for Wasps, with a fair sprinkling of Springbok grunt, most notably from twins Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez, making decisive interventions all over the field. 

“The boys looked sharp considering they had not really played for four or five weeks,” Sanderson said. “We needed it if we want to start marching our way back up this table. 

“The lads lacked a bit of game freshness going into the last quarter, but fortunately we had done the job in the first 60 minutes. As a performance, that was much more where we want to be.” 

Having beaten Harlequins and Northampton here already this season, Sale know how to turn it on in these parts, but they were shocked to fall behind to an early Wasps try. 

The visitors refused a straight-forward penalty, kicked for the corner and were rewarded as wing Josh Bassett touched down in the opposite corner. 

But from there, Sale took control as their physicality overwhelmed their opponents, with two of the home side’s three first-half tries being close-range scores from first Jean-Luc du Preez and then RJ van Rensburg. That was evident in Wasps making a tactical change as prop Biyi Alo was replaced by Jeffery Toomaga-Allen. 

The third score was a fine winger’s try from Marland Yarde as he got the ball down in the corner with both feet off the ground after sharp hands across the line from AJ MacGinty, who had a fine game at fly-half, and Luke James. 

That power looked to have delivered a bonus point before the break, only for the TMO Claire Hodnett to intervene, but the delay was a short one. 

When hooker Dan Frost attempted a long throw five metres from his own line, it was gathered gleefully by Ben Curry, who burrowed over. 

Having done the hard yards to gain the bonus point, there was then the inevitable let-up. To their credit, Wasps carried on manfully and Jimmy Gopperth went under the posts with the last move of the match to show reward for having a lot of ball in the final quarter. 

But after a morale-boosting win over London Irish on Boxing Day, this result was more in keeping with the six straight defeats that had preceded that. 

“Everyone knows how physical and structured Sale are and we couldn’t match it,” said Wasps head coach Lee Blackett. “The main concern at half-time was in defence and how we conceded too many points, too easily. 

“We’ve had an off day and we’re walking away here having lost by eight points, so that shows how tight the league is and how close we are. And you see the team Sale put out, they are one of the top teams in the competition.” 

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-5 Bassett try, 5-5 JL du Preez try, 7-5 MacGinty con, 7-8 Gopperth pen, 12-8 Yarde try, 17-8 Van Rensburg try, 19-8 MacGinty con, 24-8 D Curry try, 26-8 MacGinty con, 26-11 Gopperth pen, 26-16 Gopperth try, 26-18 Gopperth con.

Sale: L James, B McGuigan, R du Preez, RJ van Rensburg (S James 58), M Yarde, AJ MacGinty, W Cliff (G Warr 53), B Rodd (S McIntyre 55), E Ashman (T Taylor 53), N Schonert (C Oosthuizen 53); JL du Preez, L de Jager (M Postlethwaite 74), J Ross, B Curry (S Dugdale 68), D du Preez.

Wasps: A Crossdale, F Hougaard, S Spink (R Miller 74), M Le Bourgeois (C Atkinson 50), J Bassett, J Gopperth, S Wolstenholme (W Porter 50), T West (R Hislop 50), D Frost (T Cruse 61), B Alo (J Toomaga-Allen 36), V Fifita, E Stooke, B Shields (T Cardall 70), N Carr (T Willis 55), A Barbeary (T Willis 34). Sin-bin Oosthuizen.

Referee: Ian Tempest.

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