Sale Sharks edged past Wasps in the opening round of the Anglo-Welsh Cup in a scrappy encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium that saw Josh Charnley make his union debut.
Tries from Mark Jennings and Sam Bedlow, plus seven points from the boots of Tom Arscott were enough to see Sale past a dogged Wasps side, whose Guy Thompson and Jacob Umaga tries were in vain.
Wet conditions meant the game was littered with errors from the off, with several slips and loose balls as both teams struggled to settle into their rhythm.
It was the opposition who broke the deadlock when Connor Eastgate put Wasps ahead from the kicking tee after a quarter of an hour played, despite Sale dominating most of the opening possession.
But the Sharks responded from the re-start, with Jennings playing a pivotal role in driving a maul before eventually bundling over the line under a pile of bodies before 20 minutes was up – and Arscott marked his first game since April with a cool conversion.
As both the game and the rain continued, Sale failed to execute their own line-out in the Wasps 22 and Thompson’s expertly anticipated interception – gathering a wayward pass to burst from midfield – gave him a clear run to the line to put the visitors ahead.
The lead was just one point at the break, though, as Eastgate’s attempted conversion struck the post and left Sale narrowly behind as the referee blew for the half.
HALFTIME: We go in with a 1-point lead in an error-strewn 1st half at the AJ Bell thanks to a 60m solo effort from Guy Thompson! 7-8 pic.twitter.com/7uYzkKBDHO
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) November 4, 2016
It could have been more but Craig Hampson’s chip was gathered desperately by Sale after the scrum-half exploited a gap in the home side’s defences to throw a dummy and storm down the left wing.
Sale were the brighter side at the start of the second-half and Sam Bedlow made an early break from half way, shrugging off three tackles and sparking a period of attacking possession for the Sharks.
And the pressure told as Arscott utilised the slick pitch to thread grubber kick five metres from the try-line, which was pounced upon by Bedlow to give Sale their second try of the night – the fly-half again successful from the tee to extend their lead to five points.
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) November 4, 2016
Steve Diamond’s side kept up the pressure and were soon rewarded with a penalty, which Arscott again made no mistake with.
The volume of tackles seemed to be taking their toll on Wasps and the game started to slip away from them when referee Christophe Ridley awarded Sale another kick-able penalty, but Arscott’s radar was temporarily off target.
And the moment everyone had been waiting for came just after the hour mark as Charnley came on for Sharks to make his much-anticipated debut, to applause from all of the 6,668-strong crowd.
But the former Wigan Warriors winger and his teammates couldn’t do anything to stop Umaga racing clear to dive over the line in the corner inside the last ten minutes.
The Wasps back could not convert his own try though and the visitors remained four points behind with ten minutes to play.
And the deficit proved too big as Sale hung on to secure their first Anglo-Welsh Cup win of the season, at their first attempt.