Alex Hulme Foundation Cup

Sale 1st XV v Preston Grasshoppers

This weekend we saw the newly relegated Preston Grasshoppers turn up on a glorious day at Heywood road.  Despite being relegated this season, for 20 minutes in the first half, the visitors demonstrated why they’ve scored so many tries.  They surely must bounce straight back to National 2 North next season.

After an opening passage of play that would grace any rugby ground including slick handling and a crossfield kick from Chris Johnson, Gaz Johnson ran in our first try with just over a minute on the clock.  The sizeable crowd of nearly 1000 people were in fine voice and were getting ready for some champagne rugby.  Just 10 minutes later, the man being touted as the “New Jason Robinson” showed some blistering pace from 85 metres out, some fancy footwork more reminiscent of Fiji Seven’s Star, Waisale Serevi, he was over for a spectacular try.  If you watch the highlights video, from receiving the ball to placing it down, was 11 seconds, a truly blistering turn of speed.

Preston looked shellshocked, the home supporters were lapping it up in the sunshine and we were on course for a cricket score.  Then, for the first time since early February, Liam McGovern missed a kick (dropping his percentage to just over 95% for 2017).  Maybe this woke Preston up, or maybe this is why we went to sleep.  Whatever it was, Preston scored a superb try from a lovely grubber kick for the winger to pick up on the bounce, stepping off his right foot twice, he beat the cover and scored.  Converted and we were at 12-7.  Not 8 minutes later and the other wing was over the line for another a beautiful kick down the line and the bounce kicked up awkwardly into the waiting hands of the 14 who raced through over the line, duly converted.  All of a sudden it was looking like a dog fight at 12-14 rather than a cricket score.

Sale were trying all the tricks they knew, rather than playing simple rugby, too many offloads, long passes which were just not working as the Preston defence held solid.  Another ten minutes passed before Joe Kelly returning to the starting line up, powered his way over the line from a driving maul and restored the lead for Sale FC. Unfortunately for the Hoppers, they didn’t trouble the scoreboard again as Sale FC found their mojo and started running hard and straight.

Tom Davenport went over to secure the bonus point try on the stroke of half time through some very direct running and slick hands. Duly converted and we were suddenly back with a healthy lead.  On the stroke of halftime it was 26-14.

When Sale came out for the second half they were running pretty much at will, controlling the game in the breakdown and when the ball was slipped out to Paolo Odogwu, he moved at speed off one foot then the other and went through unopposed.  His electric pace, sheer physical strength and quick hands create opportunities to score almost every time he gets the ball in his hands, but this team isn’t a one man show.  Chris Johnson was now pulling the strings beautifully with a chip ahead gathered and offloaded to Sam Stelmaszek who was over for his try.

Yesterday demonstrated that the pack as well as the backs can score and perhaps the most popular try of the day came from replacement prop Laurence Sanderson who came barrelling in from 22 metres out, with Preston players being shown a clean pair of heals (as well as a sizeable frame).  This was Laurence’s first try of the season and it was beautifully taken after Tom Davenport was involved twice in the build up.

With more than 25 minutes left Sale were in full flight and the score was now 43-14.  We still had time for the speed of Ciaran Connolly to go over, Ciaran had a slightly frustrating day as Preston marshalled him well, and he was receiving the ball with very little space.  However, if you give him any space at all, he demonstrated that his pace is hard to match in this league and he outstripped four defenders on an outside arc to score bringing up the half century, with the conversion we were now 52-14.

Tom Postlethwaite coming off the bench, put the icing on the cake for a powerful performance crossing over to help guide us to 59 points.

Big moments of the game today weren’t just the tries, watching Joe Kelly get up a head of steam and pinging defenders off was worth the entry price alone as was the cheer from the crowd when Player Coach Jonathan Keep made some solid hits in midfield. Jamie Bache had an outstanding game again and will surely be missed next season if his career move to the US takes place.

Full Time Score 59-14

Smart Storage Man of the Match: Gaz Rawlings

Under 14 v Huddersfield

Date of match: 9th April 2017

Venue: Carrington High Performance Centre

Sale Rugby U14’s 28 v 45 Huddersfield U14’s

A fine sunny morning welcomed Huddersfield to Carrington who had travelled across the Pennines in replacement of Manchester who were involved in a Lancashire Cup tie. Unfortunately, late cry offs for Huddersfield reduced the starting line-ups to 13 a side.

 

The late change in starting positions and a couple of early injuries seemed to unsettle Sale and this along with a lack lustre start allowed Huddersfield to unpick the Sale side from the off and their early kick and run tactic afforded them first half dominance.

 

As a consequence, Huddersfield amassed four tries in the first twenty minutes without Sale having secured any form of possession. When Sale finally got hold of the ball possession it was all too easily surrendered either due to scruffy or broken play or it was just simply given away.

Sale eventually clicked into gear and from their first move of any substance Rory C scored their first try of the day which was expertly converted by Matty.

 

Rory is sponsored by Nu-Wave Hairdressers

Matty is sponsored by

 

Sale 7 – Huddersfield 24

 

Unfortunately the joy was short lived for Sale as Huddersfield, having caught the kick off unchallenged, ran in to score their fifth try of the day

 

Half time

 

Sale 7 – Huddersfield 31

 

In what is now becoming a familiar pattern Sale came out strongly in the second half and looked a totally different team.

Having finally gained some possession, they started to move the ball well through the phases with well worked plays from both forwards and backs moving the home team deep into opposition territory. This pressure paid off as firstly Sean and then Leon ran in tries in quick succession. Both tries were expertly converted by Matty.

 

Sean is sponsored by

 

Leon is sponsored by

Matty is sponsored by

 

Sale 21 – Huddersfield 31

 

Huddersfield were now struggling against a buoyant Sale team who were working the yards and keeping possession well.

 

In an attempt to relieve the pressure Huddersfield were forced to clear their lines but this tactic was again executed well and on one such occasion this paid dividends as a kick chase and then uncertainty in the Sale defence allowed Huddersfield to score under the posts.

 

Sale 21 – Huddersfield 38

 

Not to be perturbed, Sale continued to play some nice rugby and a further period of sustained pressure allowed Mikey to crash over for his first try of the season on forty eight minutes. Matty maintained his 100% record from the tee with an excellent kick from a difficult angle.

 

Mikey is sponsored by Medtrade

Matty is sponsored by

 

Sale 28 – Huddersfield 38

 

Sale again regrouped and were intent on restoring pride and reducing the arrears again but that commitment to attack left them vulnerable at the back and another kick chase forced Sale to knock on and from the resulting scrum a well worked moved caught Sale napping and Huddersfield ran in the final score of the day.

 

Full time

Sale 28 – Huddersfield 45

Sale paid for a desperately slow start to the game and also from periods of indecision but they showed their now customary fighting spirit to come back into a game that appeared irretrievable at half time. All in all a disappointing loss for Sale ahead of the short Easter Break.

 

 

2nd XV v Preston Grasshoppers 2

Sale FC 1st XV v Chester

This was a game Sale should realistically have scored another 20 points or so, but the first half saw a spirited and committed Chester team take advantage when they had a chance and in the blink of an eye were 2 tries up for a 12-0 lead.  Both their tries in the same corner, with the same overlap taken with skill and precision.  It did look at this point the wheels might fall off the move towards a home playoff.

Even though we were 12-0 down, we were quite unlucky not to be three tries ahead, one penalty given for player in front of the kicker when there was a three on none, one “forward pass”  with a two on one, and a penalty given against Sale for an obstruction on the line.  The first half instead saw a slew of errors leading to penalties galore (with a ratio of 14 penalties to 7 at the final whistle). In fact at one point it was not particularly clear if the referee had two arms such was the frequency of penalties awarded against Sale in the first half.

Sale finally managed to regain a semblance of control over the game with Jack Moorhouse weaving through traffic and heading into the corner for his 18th try of the season.  Even with this tough angle the kick for Liam McGovern seemed to be pretty much routine and suddenly Sale were back in the game 12-7.

Sale went in for half time 12-7 down with 40 minutes left to let their class shine through. And shine it did.  I’m reliably informed that there were some “concrete” discussions at half time which can’t and won’t be repeated, but it was clear from the way they came back out that Sale felt the first half was something they’d rather not  repeat.

In fact, it wasn’t long before a penalty try was awarded against a struggling Chester pack.  A penalty for not releasing in the tackle, lead to a line out catch at the front by Andrew Hughes into a driving maul.  Chester who were then on the back foot, made the decision to drag down the maul just short of the line.  A penalty try was awarded and a Chester player sent to the bin for 10 minutes.  The penalty try/yellow may have seemed harsh for a first offence, but the referee’s judgement was that the maul would have lead to a try and there had been warnings for both teams prior to this.  This may well have lead to the unravelling of Chester’s afternoon, but, Sale FC certainly seemed to have already put their foot down, upped the pace and turned the screw.  Conversion in front of the posts and it was 14-12 to Sale FC.

All of a sudden, penalties were being awarded in our favour, our tails were up and a quick set of hands lead Tom Ailes to a big 30 metre charge straight through some desperate defence to score and followed up by the inevitable Liam McGovern conversion, Sale were 21-12 ahead.  

The combination at scrum half/centre was starting to work more smoothly and with our new signing Matt Bradley upping the tempo things were looking far more comfortable for the home side.  The big strike running of Scott Rawlings was also causing chaos in the midfield, Chester were struggling to bring him down and our platform was set more consistently because of this.

The departure of Rhys Davies from the field to be replaced by Matt Postlethwaite must be one of those moments as an opposing player where your delight at seeing the departure from the field of a class player to only see Big Matt jogging across the pitch toward you makes your heart both soar and crash at the same time.  Within a few minutes Chris Johnson kicked ahead where Ciaran Connolly with a little bit of space showed his Gaelic Football skills gathering a bouncing ball at pace, with only a despairing tackle by the Chester defender preventing another try from the offload, in contact the ball was knocked on by Chester.

The subsequent attacking scrum created a break with Tom Ailes off the base, ably supported again by Andrew Hughes who went over for his 6th try in 9 games and our bonus point was secured.  Conversion duly slotted over by Liam McGovern for a 28-12 lead.  Chester still had ambitions to get back in the game and yet another well taken try brought them back to 28-19 for a respectable score but time had run out for the visitors and final whistle went.

Sale never looked like losing this game, but, didn’t play brilliantly as a unit.  There were some stand out performances, but in games like this, the twinkle toes of wingers like Ciaran Connolly and Sam Stelmaszek were never going to get enough room to fly and it was left to the big units up the middle to put the points on the board.

From a spectator point of view, Andrew Hughes continues to impress, he never seems to give up a lost ball or be too far away from every piece of action.  Having said that, there are also players like Jamie Bache who do a huge amount of work around the park but aren’t always the most glamorous.  In fact the engine room of this team seems to stem from the mobility of a big pack with players like Rhys Davies, Matthew Postlethwaite and a formidable front row with Dan Birchall being rock steady today against a strong pack.

As the captain Liam McGovern said post match, this team is good and you can see that when we win, even though we’ve not played at our best.

2nd XV v Chester 2

Sale FC 1st XV v Wharfedale

This match was a feast of rugby between two teams aiming to score tries.  Wharfedale came to Heywood Road without an away win this season.  However, they were looking to gain revenge for our narrow victory away at the “Dale”.  Unfortunately for them they arrived at Heywood road to take on a team who’ve improved massively since mid December.  Before then, they were winning matches but not clinically putting teams away.

The last few weeks have seen a change of attitude and a more ruthless attacking streak.  In times past when we got our bonus point try in under 30 minutes, we took our foot off the gas and cruised.  Saturday was different.  We now have pace aplenty and with the return of Ciaran Connolly and the addition of Paolo Odogwu playing his first home game this season, there’s not many teams in this league who can cope with the all around speed of Sale FC. We have also added a new scrum half in the shape of ex-Swinton Lions and Macclesfield’s, Matthew Bradley.  This has allowed Sam Stelmaszek to move to the wing, adding a bit of extra spice to the attack.

This team put a spirited Wharfedale to the sword with nine tries, although they allowed four tries and a bonus point, two of those tries were intercepts from strong Sale attacking positions.  Wharfedale were however, a far better team than the score suggests, but for the second week running we made a good team look less than they really are.

Key moments of the match would be the second of Paolo’s tries and probably as concerning for our future opposition, the laser boot of our Captain Liam McGovern who slotted all 9 conversions from all angles.  Not all conversions were beautifully flighted, but, no one remembers how they got over, just that they did.  There was every type of try scored in this match from a rolling maul, to individual brilliance to moments of champagne rugby with passing through forwards and backs.

All of the tries scored on Saturday are now on our Sale FC Rugby TV page which will give you a true taste of the pace at which we are now playing.

2nd XV v Fylde 2

Sale FC 1st XV v Leicester Lions

After last week’s massive performance against Stourbridge where Sale put on a big first half display, we were expecting more of the same at Heywood road against Leicester Lions.    We’ve played Lions three times before in the last two seasons and have yet to best the third placed team.  In October, they gave us a bit of a going over and we left with a 23-5 loss.  Saturday was a very different affair.

After only two minutes the ball was spun wide and Ciaran Connolly making his return to Heywood Rd finished off a stunning move with an overlap to score in front of the packed Steve Smith Bar.  Sale always enjoy playing toward the club house, but today was real treat.  We saw some powerful running from Tom Ailes pretty much every time he picked up the ball, the forwards were rampant and unlike in previous outings at Heywood road, the penalties in dangerous areas were now going our way.  Before the ten-minute mark, Liam McGovern popped one over and we were 10-0, after a missed penalty from Lions, Liam had two more shots at points and nailed them both, leading us into the clubhouse at half time with a 16-0 lead.  This was a very different game to the last time these two sides met.  Sale were ruthless in the first half and although they could have scored more points, and many would say they should have, the Lions didn’t get even a sniff at the Sale line.  At half time, the Sale Coach Tote Howcroft was clear that this 40 minutes was better than the previous weeks.
The second half was more of the same with Matthew Neary going over the whitewash out wide which lead to a near miss on the conversion.  This was essentially game over after 55 minutes.  Lions finally manage some sustained pressure on the Sale line, with a penalty lineout for a catch and drive five meters out. Fortunately for Sale, in front of a very vocal crowd, the line out went long and the pressure was relieved.

In the past few outings Sale have shown a red zone defence that has been rock solid, first against, Luctonians, then Stourbridge and now Leicester Lions.  The final 25 minutes was a combination of Sale closing out the game with Lions running out of options on the counter attack.  Director of rugby, Jonathan Keep, believes that this game was the best of Sale this season so far.

This four-point win puts us 17 points ahead of the chasing pack and although Lions have a game in hand, the playoff spot is now ours to lose.

Next week we are away to Harrogate, who although struggling early in the season with 6 straight loses, they’ve picked up some steam and now sit mid table.  This isn’t a simple “turn up and win” for Sale, Harrogate caused our pack all sorts of problems down at Heywood road and in front of their home crowd may well cause us even more problems.

Man of the Match was presented to Tom Ailes by our Match Day Sponsor Founder Dominic Kent from Meandmymates.com

Sale FC 1st XV v Sheffield Tigers

Match Report for Sale V Sheffield Tigers

With a score of 35-15 and a five point haul you’d think Sale would be overjoyed with their performance, but again we are a team with the ultimate aim of playing a full 80 minutes at our full potential.

This game initially promised to be a rip roaring ride with forwards and backs combining to score through Adam with only 2 minutes on the board.  Sale seemed to have learned their lesson from playing Sheffield earlier in the season where we allowed them to dictate the early part of the game and only really imposing ourselves in the final 20.

This time, Sale were looking to rack up the score early, however, in a blisteringly fast attack we managed to lose possession and chased Sheffield back down the pitch towards the clubhouse where they first earned a penalty from the breakdown to bring themselves their first 3 points, then not three minutes later we watched Sheffield cross the whitewash and all of a sudden from a glorious start we seemed to strive to make life difficult and we were 8-7 down after 13 minutes of play.

Fortunately, Sale started to dominate in scrums and more importantly at the line out and Andrew Hughes went over at the 24 minute mark which was followed by a couple of penalties within kickable distance.  For the second week running we did seem to get penalised quite regularly again.  I’m starting to wonder if either our players, or the officials aren’t all as brushed up on the Laws of the Game as well as they might be.  This game however, we were the side who managed to take advantage of the penalties awarded to us.  Liam marking his 101st game for Sale by slotting two penalties before the break to take us in 20-8 at halftime.

After the break Sale were playing towards the Steve Smith bar and started to pile on the pressure with Dan Birchall crossing the line to score and a simple conversion from Liam to take the score to 27-8.

Sheffield were now picking up injuries and some of their players were feeling the pressure, but they managed to strike back with 20 minutes to go and bring the score to 27-15, one more try and they’d bring themselves a losing bonus point and a bit of relief, however as with last week against Luctonians, we seem to get stronger as the game wears on and this week it was Adam’s turn to ensure the four try bonus point with time almost up.

This five point victory solidifies our position in the playoff position behind league leaders Caldy who also achieved a solid five points whereas third placed Stourbridge only managed a losing bonus point.

Man of the Match: Adam Aigbokhae

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