Five points from a game, which at half time appeared to offer nothing. Although Sale FC scored first from new signing Chris Owen who joined us from Lymm over the summer, we than managed to let Sheffield get under our skins and in our faces for the next 30 minutes. Their powerful and abrasive second row took advantage of the absence of Gareth Rawlings own personal brand of abrasiveness to niggle and throw Sale off their game for a good proportion of the first half and part of the second half. They played the game to the edge and it paid off with a well taken try and then a penalty try resulting in a yellow card for Joe Kelly.
The game itself started after an injury in the warm up to Adam Aigbokhae and Gas Rawlings unable to play due to illness. The injuries didn’t stop during the game either, we lost Ciaran Connolly to an knee injury less than 10 minutes in and his replacement (coming back from a long term injury) Adam Greendale also sustained a knock and had to leave the pitch. This brought in two players who would have stepped out for the 2nd XV that afternoon but services were required at Heywood Road. The first of those players was Mark Lawrence who has had 3-4 shoulder surgeries over the past few years and this was his first run out in two years for Sale FC. The other late call up for the team, was the first ever Mini and Junior player to pull on the 1st Team Shirt. John Blanchard Jr who started as a 10 year old at Sale FC and has gone via the Sharks Academy got a late call up to the team and didn’t look out of place at all. He is interviewed here after the game.
The first try of the game scored by Chris Owen came off the back of a forward drive down the right, sweeping accross to the left with quick hands from Chris Mayor, Adam Greendale and into the hands of Chris Owen who had plenty of work to do, cutting back inside, evading a high tackle to crash over. Chris Johnson put the conversion over to make it 7-0 and after the previous week it appeared to be business resumed and another high scoring game was on its way.
A few minutes later, Sheffield pulled back to 7-3 with a penalty from out in front of the posts and then things appeared to change. Sheffield started winning the contact areas, the decisions and the psychological battles. Sale appeared to assume the game was going to be a walk over and took their collective foot off the pedal.
The next meaningful passage of play, saw Sheffield create a gap on the near side of the pitch, with Sheffield player Rupert Bradley slipping a tackle stepping inside and racing away to score under the posts. Simple conversion and Sale FC were down 7-10. Then things got worse. After some promising play where Sale knocked on, Sheffield were now back on the attack and with Sale Defending from a rolling maul, Joe Kelly was judged to have pulled it down and a penalty try was awarded, with Joe yellow carded. Some confusion then took place as the two assistant referees stood behind the posts waiting for the conversion forgetting the new laws saying a penalty try is 7 points.
With Kelly still in the bin, we went in for half time and clearly whatever was said in the changing room, made a difference.
Sale came out hard, but with decisions still not going their way, it took until the 58th minute for a moment of magic, with the play out left, Chris Owens was tackled without arms and as the referee played advantage the ball swept right Rhys Davies drawing the man and offloading to Aaron Reed who scored a try, that I’m sure Sheffield will be disappointed with. Aaron Reed fended off the Sheffield Lock who’d had an excellent game until that point and went over for the five points, Chris Johnson converted and we were now only down by 3. 14-17 to Sheffield.
Sheffield then found themselves under increasing pressure in their own 22 with the ball spilling in the tackle and Simon Griffiths trying to get the ball, Sheffield were penalised for holding on, a simple kick. for Chris Johnson and it was 17-17 with a quarter of an hour to play.
Sheffield were now on the back foot and struggling to maintain the pace as Sale had emptied the bench with fresh players who helped pick up the tempo. A few minutes later and and a big hit from John Blanchard goes in, the ball spills and some quick play sees Rhys Davies break 20 metres downfield and send Aaron Reed in for his second try of the day. Duly converted by Chris Johnson and Sale were now 24-17 ahead and looking for the bonus point try.
They didn’t have to wait long, a penalty given against Sheffield on Sale’s 10 metre and Tom Ailes tapped and went. Taking the forwards at pace to the right outpacing the scrum half, he stepped infield wrong footed the full back and scored just to the side of the posts bringing up the bonus point try. Chris Johnson then converted to bring us to 31-17.
With ten minutes left, Sheffield tried to salvage something from the game and went in search of points. With some resolute defence in the Red Zone, Sale held them off until a break by Chris Mayor and Jack Moorhouse was dragged down a couple of metres from the Sheffield try line, unfortunately it was knocked on at the base of the ruck for a Sheffield put in. A free kick to Sale from the scrum gave us another chance to rack up points with a minute on the clock. Another promising passage of play and John Blanchard was nearly through for his debut try, but the pass was deemed to have gone forward.
Full Time Sale FC 31 Sheffield 17
This game was a tough brutal encounter agains t a team who were fired up and ready to play. They ran out of steam and after Sale did a good impersonation of the famed Ali “Rope a Dope” we got the full five points we needed. This weekend, we head down to South Leicester where we’ve never won. This will be our next real test.
With last week’s eight try display firmly in the review mirror we have a changed line-up for this weekend’s game. With Matt Bradley, Luke James and Anthony Bingham unavailable for selection, we have three new inclusions for the squad this weekend.
After a long injury layoff we have Adam Greendale formally of Leeds Carnegie, Newport Gwent Dragons, and England Under 19 gets his spot on the bench. Chris Taylor a product of Sale Sharks Academy also joins him on the bench and a new summer signing from Lymm Chris Owen starts at 11 in place of Anthony Bingham.
The team has been slightly shuffled with new Dad Gaz Rawlings taking moving to the bench and Jake Barron swapping in, Dan Birchall is back in the starting lineup as is Adam Aigbokhae and Sam Stelmaszek.
The most noticeable thing about this line-up is the strength of the bench. With every player being either a County player or a Junior International (or both).
Team for Saturday
- 1st XV take on Sheffield Rugby at Heywood Road KO 3pm
John Blanchard Jr
|Sale FC Rugby|
|Sale Rugby Club, Heywood Rd, Sale M33 3WB, UK|