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Sale edge past Wasps to go second

03 Nov 2006
Sale edge past Wasps to go second

Daniel Larrechea claimed a 15-point haul with the boot as Sale edged past Guinness Premiership title rivals Wasps in a fierce encounter at Edgeley Park.

There was precious little inspiration from either side and no tries in a game dominated by the respective packs and ultimately settled by the composure of Larrechea.

The Frenchman bossed the game superbly from fly-half in the absence of Charlie Hodgson and kept his composure to land four penalties and a drop goal.

He succumbed to injury shortly before the hour mark and was replaced by Lee Thomas before Wasps replacement Dave Walder handed the visitors a deserved bonus point with the final kick of the game.

It was Wasps’ first return to Edgeley Park since last season’s painful 22-12 semi-final play-off defeat which saw Sale book their place in the Premiership final.

The abiding memory of that clash was a thumping tackle from Sebastien Chabal on England legend Lawrence Dallaglio which set the tone for the rest of the game.

Dallaglio was clearly prepared to fight fire with fire this time around but the quality of the rugby did not match the commitment of the forwards.

Both sides were missing a clutch of players due to injuries and international call-ups and what little inspiration there was came from Larrechea.

Equally at home at fly-half as full-back, he claimed three penalties and a drop-goal to help his side into a 12-6 interval lead.

But it was Wasps who drew first blood as Jeremy Staunton atoned for an earlier missed penalty by landing his first three-pointer in the eighth minute.

The lead was short-lived, however, as Larrechea soon claimed his first penalty and Chabal again made his presence felt with a thunderous challenge on Alex King.

Sale began to enjoy a spell of sustained pressure and Jason White’s delightful offload looked to have put Chris Day in but Wasps’ Irish Test flanker Jonny O’Connor put paid to his progress with a crucial tackle on his return from injury.

Jason Robinson, Sale’s own England legend, then collected possession and embarked on a typically jinking run which Simon Amor brought to an abrupt end. Sale looked the more likely to penetrate and another Larrechea penalty edged them in front at 6-3 before an impressive spell of Dallaglio-inspired pressure from Wasps led to Staunton converting his second penalty for 6-6.

Try-scoring opportunities remained at a premium as the interval approached but, as tempers began to fray between the forwards, Larrechea remained composed.

He landed his third penalty of the evening and then showed no little skill to land a drop-goal from 30 metres to send Sale in at the break 12-6 ahead. Another Staunton penalty reduced the deficit to three points six minutes after the break but, almost inevitably, Larrechea quickly added another penalty before retiring on 55 minutes with a groin injury.

He was replaced by Thomas, who struck Sale’s fifth penalty late on before Walder had the final say with the last kick of the game to hand Wasps a bonus point.

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