DARLINGTON MOWDEN Park v SALE FC Rugby
This was Sale FC’s first ever visit to the Northern Echo Arena and fixture against DMP. The rain abated for the start of the game but the high winds continued and caused both sides problems under the high ball for the rest of the afternoon.
The first ten minutes Sale FC kept DMP defending in their own half with both sides testing each other’s defences, during which our first casualty of the day had Adam Aigbokhae leading the affray with a damaged ankle to be replace by Nic Dolly.
This seemed to upset the team’s rhythm and raised the home sides work rate who enjoyed the majority of the possession during the first half , scoring three tries to Sales one and only try.
DMP’s first try came from a period of sustained pressure from their pack, camping on our try line and eventually breaking the defensive line with a sniping run for from their number nine Matt Dudman with Warren Seals adding the extras.
Sale FC’s response was immediate testing the home sides defence with bullocking charges at close quarters to their try line and eventually stretching the defence to put Johnny Leota in at the corner with Chris Johnson converting.
A lapse in concentration in Sale FC’s defence allowed DMP’s rapid winger Brandon Asher-Wood to score the try of the day picking the perfect line to leave our last line of defence in his wake.
As half time approached Stone Priestly-Nangle was yellow carded after which a further try and third for DMP was scored by second row Talite Vaioleti duly converted by the no 10 to bring the score at half time to 22-7.
On returning for the second half we now had a mountain to climb. Confidence was further tested by a bonus point try delivered by number 8 Joe Craggs increasing their lead to 29-7
The travelling faithful could now rightfully be forgiven for thinking that the game was now out of our reach.
Further tactical substitutions, bringing Neil Briggs and Simon Griffiths back to the fray, the game took a dramatic turn. The true spirit of this team then came to light, from a DMP five metre scrum skipper Andy Hughes charged down a clearance kick and leading further from the front scored our third try shortly afterwards. Both tries were converted by the faultless Chris Johnson bringing the score to 29-21.
Sale now had the game by the scruff of the neck and a further penalty converted by CJ brought the score to 29-24 with ten minutes remaining.
Additional penalties given away by the opposition allowed us to progress upfield to a line out on the five metre line. We silenced the DMP crowd when Nic Dolly scored our bonus point try after 75 minutes to leave Chris Johnson to convert from the touchline. This gave Sale the lead at 29-31 for the first time approaching the final whistle.
DMP were unable to recover from the onslaught and had to resign to their first home defeat and our first victory on the road.
Sale are now 3rdin National Division 1 showing that they are improving week on week and adapting rapidly to this high level of rugby. Even though we were behind in this gritty contest until the 75thminute we never lost our discipline and stayed focused throughout enabling us to turn over a lead and come from behind to take the spoils.
Our team to face Darlington Mowden Park sees the return of Chris Owen to the lineup for the first time this season. Part of the National 2 North championship side, Chris plays himself in after some strong performances in the Sale FC 2’s. Kieran Dunne starts this week in place of Connor Doherty who is on Sharks Duty in France and Matt Sturgess another of our National 2 North championship team is on the bench. Jonty Rawcliffe has recovered from his nasty looking injury last week to start at 15 and John Blanchard Jr after a good performance last week in his first National 1 game, is on the bench again. As with last week, this team features two of our ex-colts players in Kieran Dunne and John Blanchard Jr
16 of the 20 who play on Saturday featured in the team from last season against a side who finished second in National One and are one of the favourites for promotion this year.