Charlie Hodgson ensured Wasps’ woeful GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP campaign continued with a masterful display which harvested 11 points and a thoroughly deserved Sale victory.
The fly-half, playing only his fourth competitive game for Sale since injuring his right knee playing for England against South Africa last November, displayed courage as well as no little skill.
He was caught late by a heavy challenge from Wasps forward Dan Leo in the opening exchanges but he gingerly rose to his feet after treatment to orchestrate affairs.
Two first-half drop-goals a penalty from the number 10 gave Sale a 9-0 interval advantage which they did not surrender.
Lionel Faure squeezed over for the game’s only try in the 53rd minute and with Hodgson adding an excellent touchline conversion, the visitors were dead and buried.
A Wasps side that lifted the Heineken Cup for the second time in four seasons in May has now failed to win any of their opening four games.
Even allowing for the absence of a host of key men due to World Cup commitments, Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan must be concerned about his side’s alarming malaise.
It is worth noting that Sale were even more depleted than their opponents but Hodgson, overlooked for World Cup duty by England coach Brian Ashton, again provided a steadying influence in the middle of the park.
His astute kicking gave Sale a platform on which to build but when Leo caught him late in the fifth minute there were fears his night was over.
Though clearly dazed by the force of the challenge, Hodgson was soon back in the thick of things and in the 12th minute he found the space to craft a neatly-taken drop-goal to edge Sale ahead.
The Sharks were boosted by the inclusion on the wing of Elvis Seveali’i, who returned to the club on Monday after a miserable World Cup campaign with Samoa.
But it was Hodgson who proved the key figure and midway through the opening period some more delightful footwork gave him his second drop-goal.
Wasps, after an abject start, improved as the half wore on and their pack drove them forward at every opportunity.
In truth, though, they created precious little and after Dave Walder missed a penalty, Hodgson did not falter with a three-pointer to put Sale 9-0 ahead at the break.
Hodgson missed a penalty 10 minutes into the second half and Sale had a lucky escape soon after as Danny Cipriani clearly caught Ben Foden late to prevent his opposite number bursting clear.
Somehow Cipriani’s challenge went unpunished but Faure’s scrambled touchdown in the right corner moments later provided belated justice.
The try was delightfully converted by Hodgson before Sale went on to waste several opportunities to add to their tally as Wasps’ tale of early-season woe continued apace.