Dave Walder’s boot enabled Wasps to boost their Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off hopes despite an unconvincing 33-26 win over Sale at Adams Park.
Fly-half Walder kicked 23 of their points landing six penalties, a conversion and a dropped goal. Both sides were hit by late changes with Wasps missing Simon Shaw and Sale without Dwayne Peel and Rob Miller.
Wasps, bidding to avoid an eighth defeat in their last nine matches, began strongly with Riki Flutey and Dominic Waldouck making strong runs. Sale were penalised and Walder’s first penalty gave the home side a second-minute lead. Some aimless kicking by the Sharks gave possession away which enabled Richard Haughton to counter-attack and again the visitors were penalised with Walder kicking a second penalty. Wasps continued to dominate the early exchanges and the lead was extended to 9-0 after 10 minutes by a third Walder penalty from only just inside the Sale half.
While Wasps had much the better of the opening quarter they were not able to create any major try scoring opportunities and it was once again left to Walder to keep the scoreboard ticking over with two more penalties as the Sharks continued to incur the displeasure of referee David Pearson. Eventually his patience became exhausted and Sale prop Henry Thomas received a yellow card for diving over at a ruck.
Wasps suffered a blow when they lost Waldouck, who limped off with a leg injury after 27 minutes with the centre being replaced by Nic Berry and a back division reshuffle took place resulting in influential scrum half Joe Simpson having to play on the left wing.
Sale then lost their captain James Gaskell with an injury but Wasps could not take advantage of this and the absence of Thomas as the Sharks comfortably contained them while he was in the sin-bin. Despite Wasps’ dominance Sale had the best try scoring opportunity of the half minutes before the interval.
Haughton dropped a high bell and Chris Bell looked a likely scorer until he was hauled down from behind by Simpson and Wasps led 15-0 at the break.
The Sharks began the second half by producing their best movement of the game and were rewarded when Ben Cohen crossed in the corner for Charlie Hodgson to convert and the wing might have had another minutes later but for a stray pass. Sale were now looking a totally different side from the one before the interval and Hodgson kicked a penalty for make it 15-10 but this was soon nullified when Walder dropped a goal.
Wasps regained their supremacy by scoring a splendid try with Simpson and Haughton combining well in their own half to send Flutey away on a 50-metre run to the line for the try which Walder converted for 25-10. Hodgson kicked two penalties to make it 25-16 going into the final 15 minutes.
Walder kicked his sixth penalty before Welsh international No 8 Andy Powell, emerged to play at centre in place of Flutey and Serge Betsen also appeared as Joe Worsley limped off.
The hosts finally killed off the spirited Sharks as Haughton sent Simpson flying down the wing to score. But the Sale had the final say with a try from Wame Lewaravu converted by Hodgson and a further penalty from the outside half to bring to an end a frenetic second half.