WASPS made it eight competitive wins from eight at Adams Park this season after seeing off Sale, who despite a battling display which earned them a bonus point remain well adrift at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership standings.
Scorers: Wasps: Try: Thomas. Con: Jones. Pens: Jones 4, Daly, Robinson. Sale: Tries: Vernon, Leota. Con: Miller. Pens: Miller 2.
Sale, who suffered a record Heineken Cup defeat in losing 62-0 at Toulon last weekend, outscored Wasps two tries to one through efforts from Richie Vernon and Johnny Leota.
However, it was Wasps who took the spoils thanks to a try from T Rhys Thomas, 14 points from the boot of Stephen Jones and further penalties from Elliot Daly and Nicky Robinson.
Wasps No 8 Billy Vunipola was the star performer, impressing with his powerful running and his ball handling skills, and it was he who set up the crucial try for Thomas with an outstanding piece of play.
After last weekend’s mauling by Toulon, Danny Cipriani was omitted from the Sale line-up, while Tom Varndell was absent for Wasps with a foot injury.
After an error-ridden opening ten minutes, Wasps had the first chance for points with Jones making no mistake with a simple penalty. Moments later, Sale had their first opportunity which Nick MacLoed failed to take as he was narrowly wide with his penalty attempt.
The first 20 minutes saw Wasps have the better of possession and territory, with bursts from back rowers Vunipola and Ashley Johnson testing the visitors’ defence but it held firm and the score remained 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Sale were under pressure in the scrum area and after 22 minutes they conceded a penalty, allowing Jones to make it 6-0.
When Wasps were penalised on halfway, Rob Miller stepped up to take the kick instead of MacLeod and it proved a wise choice as the full-back fired it over to halve the deficit.
Then, from nowhere, Sale produced a moment of real quality to score the opening try.
Richie Vernon’s clever pass sent powerful centre Sam Tuituopou away on a 40-metre break, beating off two defenders in the process. The ball was quickly recycled for Vernon to outflank the cover for the try.
Although MacLeod missed the conversion, that try gave Sale increased confidence and they were the better side for the remainder of the half.
They nearly scored a second try but Joe Simpson saved the day for Wasps by getting back to haul down Mark Jennings after Hugo Southwell’s kick went straight into the wing’s hands.
Despite Sale looking on top, Wasps reclaimed the lead in the 36th minute when Daly hammered over a penalty from five metres inside his own half, although that should have been quickly nullified by Miller who made a hash of his penalty attempt to allow the home side a 9-8 interval lead.
Early in the second half, Jones kicked two penalties to one from Miller to extend Wasps’ advantage before the hosts scored a splendid try.
Vunipola burst away from a scrum on halfway and eluded two defenders on a 50-metre run before being hauled down just short of the line. But Wasps secured possession for Thomas to crash over for the try which Jones converted to give the home side a healthy 22-11 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Sale showed great spirit to produce their best passage of play which ended with Wasps wing Christian Wade just managing to deprive replacement prop Tony Buckley of a try by forcing him into the corner flag.
Miller had a further penalty chance but surprisingly missed from 25 metres before Robinson’s late effort gave Wasps some leeway.
Sale had the final say when Leota crashed over for a try which Miller converted with the last kick of the game to secure a bonus point for the visitors, although they remain adrift at the bottom of the table.
Wasps: Southwell; Wade, Masi, C Bell, Daly; S Jones, Simpson; Taulafo, T Thomas, Swainston, Launchbury, Wentzel, Johnson, Haskell, Vunipola. Replacements: Robinson for S Jones (71), Davies for Simpson (78), Payne for Taulafo (57), Lindsay for T Thomas (69), Taylor for Swainston (74), Cannon for Wentzel (68), Poff for Haskell (57). Not Used: Mayor.
Sale: Miller; Jennings, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; MacLeod, Cliff; Harrison, Jones, Roberts, Gray, Myall, Gaskell, Seymour, Vernon. Replacements: Uys for Cueto (79), Brady for MacLeod (59), Willis for Cliff (49), Croall for Jones (69), Buckley for Roberts (49), McKenzie for Myall (60), Powell for Gaskell (69). Not Used: Cobilas.
Referee: JP Doyle.