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Wasps surge fails to capsize Sale
IT seems that no matter where Wasps go this season, the finish line is one yard further on.
After losing by the width of an upright on the opening day and being beaten by just four points a week later, lightning struck a third time in Manchester tonight.
All seemed lost when they trailed 20-3 early in the second half, but three tries in 15 minutes turned the game on it’s head and with just over five minutes to go Andy Goode lined up a conversion from the touchline with his side 23-22 behind.
But, like at Twickenham, he was unable to give the scoreboard a final, decisive nudge.
His kick drifted wide and Wasps’ frantic attempts to score again before the end proved fruitless.
Instead, throwing caution to the wind and trying to run from deep, they were penalised at the death for holding on and former Wasps star Danny Cipriani hammered in the final nail in their coffin with last act of the match.
It took his personal tally in the match to 21 points.
But it was a cruel blow for Dai Young’s team, who must have thought momentum would carry them to victory after a stunning surge in the second period.
Ashley Johnson started it when he went over from a line-out drive with 55 minutes gone.
Up until then Wasps’ only contribution to the scoreboard had been a Goode penalty just before the half-hour mark.
But Goode converted Johnson’s second try of the campaign and was on target again off the tee when Wasps were awarded a penalty try with 68 minutes gone after their rolling maul had been dragged down.
They still had work to do at 23-17 down, but just moments later a miraculous comeback was upgraded from possible to probable when Josh Bassett finished off more good work from the pack.
His first try in Wasps colours reduced the arrears to one point with a conversion attempt and seven minutes of rugby to come.
Having amassed 19 points in such a rush, the two more needed to secure their first win of the season seemed almost a formality.
It wasn’t happening though. Goode missed. Sale regrouped in the nick of time and in the end their mid-match flurry proved just enough.
But there was little sign of the drama to come in a quiet opening 30 minutes, which saw Goode and Cipriani each convert penalties to keep it friendly at 3-3.
However, it was former Wasps man Cipriani who proved the difference. On as an early replacement for the injured Nick Macloed, he set up Mark Cueto for the game’s first try after 32 minutes and went over himself with 48 minutes.
He converted both himself and added two penalties for good measure to establish clear daylight between the sides. And when Wasps surged, a third Cipriani penalty kept them at bay before he applied the coup de grace at the very end.
Wasps take on Worcester next weekend in their first match of the campaign at Adams Park. A fourth consecutive defeat is almost unthinkable.
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