Charlie Hodgson breathed new life into Sale’s fight against relegation with a match-winning display which lifted his side off the foot of the Guinness Premiership.
The Sharks have steadily fallen from grace since being crowned champions in 2006 and faced Wasps on the back of an horrific eight-match losing streak. Yet while much has changed at Edgeley Park since their title success four years ago, Hodgson remains the creative fulcrum and his trusty right boot delivered when Sale needed it most.
The 29-year-old fly-half, called into the England squad as cover for Jonny Wilkinson earlier in the week before being released back to his club, landed three penalties and converted Richard Wigglesworth’s try to claim a personal haul of 11 points.
Kingsley Jones’ men led 9-0 at half-time and it was an advantage they did not surrender against a largely insipid Wasps outfit who could not match Sale’s energy and collective desire. Although Wasps hit back through Ben Jacobs’ 53rd-minute try, Sale responded immediately when Wigglesworth capitalised on a dreadful mistake in the visiting rearguard for a try which Hodgson duly converted.
Victory was all the sweeter for Sale after Wasps had refused to play the original fixture in November and walked away from the ground just minutes before kick-off because they felt a section of the pitch was unsafe.
Sale clearly needed no added incentive to halt their alarming slump and they tore into tackles with aggression and purpose. After Wasps were penalised for infringing at a scrum just inside their own half in the sixth minute, Hodgson produced an outstanding conversion to put Sale 3-0 ahead.
The score sent belief coursing through the Sale players and supporters, yet Wasps should have cut them apart had David Lemi not erred with wayward handling on two separate occasions. First he found space down the right channel but sent a woeful pass straight into touch and moments later another dreadful offload gave Paul Sackey no chance to exploit the space in front of him.
For all their lack of execution, Wasps at least looked lively when going forward and after fly-half Dave Walder failed with a penalty attempt in the 16th minute, they fashioned another decent opening. Steve Kefu found Sackey scampering clear down the left channel but his pass was forward and the opportunity again lost.
Sale lacked sparkle in their own backline but they were superior in the scrum and Hodgson claimed his second penalty in the 27th minute. Sale had a try disallowed in the 36th minute, but Hodgson landed his third penalty to put them 9-0 ahead at the break.
Danny Cipriani replaced Walder at half-time and the switch looked to have paid off when he was involved in a slick handling move which resulted in Jacobs bursting over the line. Cipriani failed to convert the try and two minutes later a Wasps defender spilled the ball and Wigglesworth gratefully collected possession and touched down.
Hodgson converted and, although a penalty from Cipriani kept Wasps in touch, Wigglesworth added a late penalty for Sale to add gloss to the scoreline.