Danny Cipriani fires England reminder with 15-point haul in Sale victory
Danny Cipriani fired a reminder to England of his match-winning qualities as he kicked Sale to a third Aviva Premiership win of the season at the expense of his former club Wasps.
Controversially overlooked for the World Cup squad in the summer, the fly-half did his hopes of a Six Nations call-up by new head coach Eddie Jones no harm at all as he slotted over four penalties and a drop goal to earn Sale a 15-9 victory.
Wasps number 10 Jimmy Gopperth kicked two penalties in response with Elliot Daly adding a drop goal but the visitors, hunting a fourth successive away win, came up short against a Cipriani-inspired Sale.
It earned Sale their first league win in two months and was just the tonic their director of rugby Steve Diamond was looking for going into 2016 as the Sharks leapfrogged Wasps into seventh place in the table.
Amidst a constant drizzle at the AJ Bell Stadium which made handling treacherous, an early penalty from Cipriani gave the Sale the ideal start as they looked to usher in the new year in winning style.
And it was Sale who enjoyed much the better of the early exchanges, the Sharks dominating both territory and possession.
They twice came close to earning a reward for that bright opening passage with centre Will Addison choosing to ignore an overlap when the Sale centre had winger Tom Arscott and full-back Mike Haley clear outside, with the opportunity being lost.
Then Haley almost went over after a thrilling run only to be stopped in his tracks by a brave tackle from former Sale favourite Rob Miller.
However, the visitors weathered the early storm and should have scored themselves on the half hour after a blistering break from centre Daly cut open Sale's defence.
He found Miller in space but as the full-back dived in to touch down he somehow spilled the ball in crossing the line, referee Luke Pearce ruling out the effort after consulting the TMO Trevor Fisher.
Wasps finally got on the scoreboard two minutes later through a Gopperth penaltty and with time almost up in the first half, Dai Young's side struck again thanks to some quick thinking from Daly who dinked over a deft drop goal to give the visitors a 6-3 half-time lead.
With the tackling ferocious and both sides excelling at the breakdown, point-scoring chances were at even more of a premium in the second half.
Cipriani made the most of his opportunity in the 56th minute, though, drilling over a penalty to draw the Sharks level.
And the fly-half repeated the feat nine minutes later with an excellent kick from wide on the left to put Sale back into the lead to the delight of the Sharks' biggest crowd of the season.
But Wasps refused to buckle and a fine up and under from Gopperth opened up a break for replacement Kearnan Myall and that led to a Sale foul which allowed Gopperth to level again with his second penalty 10 minutes from time.
The drama did not finish there, though, as Sale pressed again and they thought they had scored a try through replacement scrum-half Peter Stringer after he darted over the line.
Referee Pearce disallowed that effort after consulting the TMO, but he did award Sale a penalty for an earlier infringement a nd Cipriani's nerve stood up to the test as he booted over his fourth penalty.
And as a crowd of 7,619 roared Sale on, Cipriani ensured Sale collected all four points as he fired over a drop goal in front of the posts.