Sale keep top-four hopes alive after win at Wasps

Date published: February 23 2019

Sale Sharks bounced back superbly from last weekend’s trouncing at the hands of Northampton Saints to overcome Wasps 24-18 at the Ricoh Arena.

The Sharks were excellent in the first half and opened up a nine-point gap through Rob Webber and Denny Solomona tries, while Faf de Klerk added seven points from the tee.

Wasps’ response came via Ashley Johnson’s effort and Lima Sopoaga’s three-pointer before they reduced the deficit when Joe Simpson crossed the whitewash.

It was not to be for the hosts, though, as Sale were awarded a penalty try which secured the win, despite Rob Miller’s three-pointer giving them hope late on.

After being stunned by Northampton a week ago, this was a much improved display from the Sharks, who controlled the opened quarter and deservedly went 14-0 ahead.

Having been physically dominated by the Midlanders, Steve Diamond’s men played with far more intensity on Saturday and that was displayed in the first try. The visitors were direct while Faf de Klerk was spritely, taking a quick tap penalty and sending Rohan Janse van Rensburg charging towards the line.

Although the South African was stopped just short, the ball was quickly shifted to Webber and the former England hooker crossed the whitewash.

It was an excellent start from Sale and they followed that up with another score as a well-worked move ended in Solomona touching down out wide for a 14-point buffer.

Dai Young’s charges had struggled to get going but they found an avenue to success via their maul. It managed to put the away side under duress and forced them to infringe, allowing Wasps to set up an attack which resulted in Johnson going over.

Sopoaga and De Klerk then traded three-pointers as the Greater Manchester outfit went into the break 17-8 in front.

The Sharks also had the better of the early stages of the second period but failed to take advantage of their position five metres out and were duly punished by an incisive attack from the hosts. Johnson and Nizaam Carr were both involved but it was Simpson who finished it off to reduce the arrears to two points.

Despite good work from Carr for that score, the back-row was to cost his side seven points minutes later. Solomona received the ball out wide and charged towards the line before he was taken high by the number eight, leading to a yellow card and penalty try.

Young’s outfit managed that sin-bin period well, however, and set up a nervous finale when replacement Miller kicked a three-pointer.

They pressed for the victory but Sale remained resilient to put themselves back in play-off contention.

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In Saturday’s other games, Exeter Chiefs moved back to the top of the table following a comfortable 35-17 triumph over bottom team Newcastle Falcons.

The West Countrymen were knocked off the summit following their defeat to Gloucester the previous week but had no problems against the basement-dwellers as Santiago Cordero, Jack Yeandle, Olly Woodburn, Nic White and Greg Holmes touched down.

Sonatane Takulua and Zach Kibirige (twice) responded for the Falcons but it was another poor day for last year’s fourth place finishers.

Elsewhere, Harlequins continued their fine form after defeating a battling Bristol Bears 36-26 at the Stoop. Ross Chisholm, Marcus Smith, Mike Brown, Joe Marchant and Nathan Earle all crossed the whitewash, while Charles Piutau, Alapati Leiua, who went over twice, and Callum Sheedy also earned the visitors a try bonus-point.

It was a tighter affair at Franklin’s Gardens but it was Northampton who emerged with a 27-26 win over Bath thanks to a late David Ribbans try. It was a topsy-turvy encounter throughout, with Ruaridh McConnochie and Zach Mercer going over for the visitors and Rory Hutchinson and Alex Mitchell hitting back for the Saints, before Ribbans’ late intervention helped Chris Boyd’s men snatch a result.