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Hodgson fires Sharks to top of table Hodgson fires Sharks to top of table

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Hodgson fires Sharks to top of table

The match had been billed as the “game of the season” by Sharks head coach Philippe Saint-Andre – and it did not fail to disappoint.

But despite there being a clutch of world-class backs on show, it was a contest dominated by the forwards and as a result, it all came down to the kicking.

Hodgson, whose role as kicker for England could be challenged by the emergence of Wasps’ New Zealand-born full-back Mark van Gisbergen, grabbed all Sale’s points as he planted over six penalties.

Van Gisbergen replied with one penalty and a conversion, following Josh Lewsey’s classy second-half try, but Wasps were overrun by a dominant Sharks pack, of whom Andrew Sheridan, Jason White and Sebastien Chabal were typically ebullient.

The result destroyed the London club’s unbeaten start to the season while at the same time providing Sale with their fourth win in five Premiership outings, a last-gasp defeat at Gloucester being the only blot on their copybook.

Both sides restored their phalanx of stars to their starting line-ups following the recent batch of Powergen Cup ties.

And it was Sale who got the first points on the board in the fifth minute when Hodgson knocked over a straightforward penalty following an infringement at a line-out by lock Simon Shaw.

Van Gisbergen restored parity with a penalty of his own five minutes later and it was Wasps who displayed the more enterprising rugby early on, with Paul Sackey, Tom Voyce and Van Gisbergen proving elusive runners.

After a series of misdemeanours at the breakdown, referee Sean Davey lost patience and sent White to the sin-bin.

But being reduced to 14 men seemed to galvanise Sale, whose giant prop Sheridan was causing no end of havoc in the scrum.

Hodgson put them 9-3 ahead with his second and third three-pointers and the hosts were given a further fillip when Wasps’ England international Joe Worsley was forced off through injury in the 24th minute.

The pace never relented but with the two sides so evenly matched, gaps in either defence were at a premium.

Shaw received the same punishment as White after one too many offences and Hodgson made him pay with yet another penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Just as in the first half, it was Sale’s forwards who the more dominant butagainst the run of play, Wasps hit back with the first try.

Matt Dawson made the first piercing break into the Sharks’ 22, and Lewsey picked up from the breakdown.

The England international, playing at centre tonight, then dummied a pass to Raphael Ibanez before scurrying through the smallest of gaps to round full-back Daniel Larrechea and power over. Van Gisbergen converted.

The territorial advantage was with Sale, however, and with 20 minutes remaining, Hodgson created a five-point gap with his fifth penalty of the night.

His sixth arrived 10 minutes later as a tired-looking Wasps pack caved in under further pressure and the game was won for Sale.

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