Tom Brady scored a late try to ensure Sale Sharks got back to winning ways in Aviva Premiership Rugby with a hard-fought victory over Wasps.
Steve Diamond’s troops had only won once – in round two at home to newly-promoted London Welsh – prior to the clash against the Londoners at the AJ Bell Stadium but Brady’s effort four minutes from time eased any nerves.
First-half tries from Tom Arscott and Chris Cusiter had given the hosts 12-7 half-time lead, and while Wasps rallied they found the Sharks too eager.
Sale named an entirely new front-row from the side that was beaten comfortably at Saracens with hooker Marc Jones returning to line-up alongside props Ross Harrison and Vadim Cobilas.
And they got off the mark after just six minutes. Danny Cipriani’s decision to kick for the corner was vindicated as consistent pressure from the hosts resulted in a try for Arscott.
Good hands from Mike Paterson allowed the winger – now Aviva Premiership Rugby’s leading try-scorer this season – to notch his fifth of the campaign in the corner.
But Wasps began to gain a foothold and the visitors’ pressure eventually resulted in a yellow card for Paterson on 25 minutes.
And within seconds the Wasps pack, a man to the good, forced its way over the try-line – No.8 Nathan Hughes the grateful scorer and Andy Goode added the extras to make it 7-5.
Cipriani, who missed his earlier conversion attempt, was also wayward with two penalties around the half-hour mark but, sandwiched in between, Wasps found themselves down to 14 men when Will Helu was sin-binned for taking down Brady in mid-air.
And it didn’t take long for the hosts to take advantage as a superb Cusiter charge-down allowed the scrum-half to dot down, after a fumble by Christian Wade.
Cipriani added the conversion to make it 12-7 but he continued his poor form from the tee by missing a penalty in the last act of the first half.
The former Wasps fly-half made amends early on in the second period, though, when he slotted over a sweetly-struck drop goal and then a penalty, extending the hosts’ lead to 11 points.
Wasps pushed for points but found Sale’s defence hard to break down as the game entered a bit of a lull around the hour mark.
But the game – and Wade in particular – burst into life on 79 minutes when the Wasps winger squeezed his way past three Sharks challenges to touch down under the posts. Rob Miller added the two points to leave the visitors just four points adrift.
However Brady had the final say to secure a vital victory for the hosts – their sixth win from their last seven Aviva Premiership Rugby encounters with Wasps.