Danny Cipriani produced a flawless kicking display to sink Sale Sharks and move Wasps within touching distance of the GUINNESS PREMEIRSHIP’S top four.
The discarded England fly-half landed six kicks from six attempts – five of them penalties and the other a conversion after Ben Jacobs’ 14th-minute try – to put the Sharks out of sight.
Sale, who went into the break 10-6 down, drew to within three points at 16-13 in the 52nd minute thanks to a try by substitute prop Gavin Kerr but indiscipline in the second half killed them.
Charlie Hodgson booted the rest of their points with a conversion, two penalties and a drop-goal in the 78th minute which secured them a bonus point.
The win leaves Wasps in fifth in the table but they close the gap on stumbling London Irish.
A fairly sterile start was lit up by a magical opening try in the 14th minute which was superbly created by Tom Varndell.
The England winger, having collected a deep kick from Hodgson in his own 22, skinned Dafydd James along the touchline before exchanging passes with Jacobs. Varndell then lobbed a pass gridiron-style into midfield, where Warren Fury fed Jacobs for a score which Cipriani converted.
The move came out of the blue as the preceding action had been error-strewn, with a dull kick-and-chase game dominating.
Cipriani and Hodgson, two attacking fly-halves ignored by England coach Martin Johnson for the RBS 6 Nations, were being given little room to display their skills but the latter was doing well pinning Wasps back with his tactical kicking.
A sweetly-struck Hodgson penalty in the 26th minute got the Sharks off the mark and they were giving the hosts no breathing space, with Wasps’ backline failing to function.
When lock Marty Veale handled illegally in a ruck, Hodgson added a second three-pointer to move the Sharks to within a point with four minutes to go in the half.
Cipriani replied in kind with the last kick of the half to restore Wasps’ four-point advantage and he landed a second penalty, this time from the halfway line, five minutes after the break to stretch the lead.
Try-scoring chances remained few and far between with most of the action contained in the middle third of the field but Sale discipline, so good in the first half, was starting to let them down. They were pinged at a 50th-minute breakdown, allowing Cipriani to stroke over his fourth successful kick on the trot.
With Sale hardly having been seen as an attacking force, Kerr’s try two minutes later therefore came out of nowhere.
Wasps full-back Mark van Gisbergen failed to deal with another long Hodgson kick into the corner and let the ball dribble from his grasp. Sale number 15 Marika Vakacegu was on hand to pick it up and pass to the supporting Kerr, who outpaced Betsen for the try. Hodgson converted for 16-13.
Cipriani kept the Sharks at arm’s length with a penalty on the hour mark and when Eifion Lewis-Roberts was sent to the sin-bin in the 68th minute for not releasing the ball with Wasps just 10 yards from Sale’s try-line, it looked game over.
Cipriani confirmed that was the case when he kicked his fifth successful penalty after a deliberate knock-on by Martin Halsall.
Hodgson’s drop-goal with two minutes left at least earned Sale a losing bonus point.