By Ali Stokes
Another Wasps win that displayed grit in the face of adversity will have satisfied Director of Rugby Dai Young, with a four-try bonus point victory in the bag and no major injuries to speak of.
Wasps visit to the AJ Bell Stadium could not have got off to a poorer start with the yellow card handed to number eight Nathan Hughes after killing Sale Sharks ball two metres from Wasps' line, preventing the home side from securing quick ball after a Ben Curry break down the right flank.
Sale captain Jono Ross crossed seconds later to compound Wasps' misery, a man and a try down before fans had managed to settle comfortably in their seats.
Wasps' attempts to dig themselves into the game found some success early doors, but a lack of accuracy and the challenge of Sale's determined defence limited the visitors to a Sopoaga penalty in the ninth minute after a period of possession.
Field possession for Wasps' endeavours came courtesy of captain Elliot Daly's boot, displaying two elegant positional punts, locating space behind Sale's back three.
Following their early superiority, Sale struggled for a second week in a row to capitalise on their opportunities, with an AJ MacGinty restart failing to go the requisite ten metres and a walk-in score for fullback Byron McGuigan found wanting following a forward pass from England wing Denny Solomona.
Despite Hughes' early indiscretion and multiple handling errors at crucial times, Wasps finally grew into the game during the late stages of the first-half, sparked by a determined Josh Bassett-run down the left wing, leaving a multitude of Sale's would-be defenders in his wake. An opportunity that was also curtailed by a Hughes knock-on.
Unperturbed by another handling error from their barnstorming backrower, Wasps went on to register the first of their afternoon's bonus point scores, with an artful succession of delayed passes, intelligent running lines and last-gasp offloads saw Springbok fullback Willie le Roux spark Wasps into action.
Man of the match Michael Le Bourgeois, half-back Dan Robson and makeshift openside Nizaam Carr all played their hands in supporting and offloading for a score beside the posts enabling a straightforward conversion for All Black standoff Lima Sopoaga and a level scoreboard of ten points apiece.
The visitors had planned to extend their lead heading into the changing rooms at half-time with the familiar sight of a monstrous Elliot Daly penalty, that fell mere inches short of taking Wasps 13-10 up after the first 40.
A failure that would benefit Wasps, as it transpired, with le Roux playing creator once again to help see Bassett over for a 39th minute try in the left-hand corner. A sublime second conversion from Sopoaga saw Wasps' early strifes transformed into half-time dominance on the scoreboard at 10-17 in their favour.
Steve Diamonds' Sharks returned to the field after their half-time energy gels, massages and re-strapping plainly set on locking down the AJ Bell, showing a determined physical edge from their pack and burly inside centre Mark Jennings.
MacGinty slotted his second penalty of the day six minutes into the second 40 after Wasps blindside Ashley Johnson was penalised for going off feet in at the side of a ruck, allowing the Sale fly-half to reduce Wasps advantage to four.
Wasps returned in furious manner five minutes later, with last minute team addition Christian Wade drawing two defenders out wide and releasing le Roux and Bassett into space.
An early tackle on le Roux as Bassett sent what should have been a try-scoring pass saw Sale openside Ben Curry sent off for a ten-minute spell by referee Wayne Barnes, but denying Sale the penalty try after adjudicating Bassett's final pass to have been forward.
Wasps made up for this error by sending 22-year-old tighthead Will Stuart over for his side's third score of the day after Sale's seven-man pack did their utmost to defend Wasps' driving maul, allowing Stuart to peel off and force his way over the line.
While Sale's endeavour saw no drop off following Stuart's close-range effort, inaccuracy saw the hosts fail to register further points that afternoon, with Wasps ejecting the Sharks five metres from their own line after a fortuitous scrum penalty. Sale compounded their concerns by conceding a penalty at lineout time, allowing Sopoaga to take a second consecutive kick for touch and convert what could have been a potential conceded score from five metres out to placing his side with a driving maul 15 metres from Sale's line.
Possession changed hands multiple times in Sale's red zone during the final five minutes, with Luke James ripping possession from Hughes and Wasps defensive line pressurising McGuigan over his own try-line moments later.
Hughes' torrid Manchester afternoon was somewhat redeemed following his 77th minute bonus-point securing score, driving through Sale's halfback pairing of MacGinty and Will Cliff to stretch out a long lever and provide his side with maximum points following his patchy performance.
Dai Young will likely take pride in the grit his side displayed, having noted ahead of the season's start that his side had failed to prove their mettle during trying times.
Young's opposite number, Diamond, will find himself further frustrated at Sale's continued inaccuracies, failing to realise their chances and secure the victory in a second consecutive week.
Tries: Jono Ross (1)
conversions: AJ MacGinty (2)
Penalties: AJ MacGinty (13,45)
Tries: Nizaam Carr (34) Josh Bassett (39), Will Stuart (52), Nathan Hughes (77)
Conversions: Lima Sopoaga (35, 40, 53, 78)
Penalties: Lima Sopoaga (9)
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