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
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
Post Match Interviews
Sale FC 29 V Macclesfield 36
Brief Match Outline
Sale started slowly with Macclesfield on the attack from the start, eventually crossing in the left corner after 5 minutes.
From the re-start Sale started to play with more confidence and responded on 10 minutes with a try from Rigg, who received a sublime cut out pass from Bentley, to walk in unopposed.
On 16 mins things got better for Sale as Dodd crossed from close range for a 10 – 5 lead.
Sale were now the dominant team until a long clearance kick from Macc was fumbled by the Sale back 3 allowing Macclesfield player to pick up the loose ball and score a converted try on 30 mins.
HT Sale 10 v Macclesfield 12
The 2nd half started as the 1st with Macclesfield on the attack. Only 2 minutes into the half a mishit clearance kick went straight to the Macc left winger, who beat several defenders before touching down to extend the lead to 17-10.
Soon after, more poor tackling from Sale gave Macc after simple try to extend their lead further to 22-10.
Undeterred Sale hit back with 2 tries of their own from Tully and Jones to go into a 24-22 lead.
However, with Sale tiring Macc scored 2 further tries to lead 36-24 with minutes left.
Sale went on the attack from the re-start and a tap penalty on the final play of the game ended with Robinson scoring to make the final score, in an excellent game of end to end rugby, 29-36.
Our home fixture was a chance for revenge against a team we’ve never beaten. They have always seemed to have the upper hand and this match seemed no different when a series of errors saw South Leicester run a try after only 15 minutes. Sale managed to fight back before the break with Tom Ailes back from holiday showing no signs of jet lag to crash over the line. The conversion was missed and after many errors from both sides we went into the break 7-5 down.
After the break we picked up the pace and scored through Ollie Longmore with a conversion by Liam McGovern. South leicester then hit back and suddenly it was 14-12. We picked up the pace again and with a penalty taking us into the lead Sale started to exert more and more pressure leading to a penalty by McGovern, to make it 15-14 a final try by Scott Rawlings saw us move to 20-14 with 20 minutes to go.
Although this wasn’t a great game to watch for the newcomer, this was a tense encounter that could easily have gone either way. Make no mistake this was a massive win for us against a good team who have consistently caused us problems over the past two seasons. Another huge game next week as we push towards that playoff spot.