This must be one of the results, if not the result of the season so far. We arrived at a sun-drenched Sedgley Park in a solid second position chasing confirmation of our playoff. We were still 11 points adrift of Caldy, but firmly ahead of the 3rd placed Tigers. This match would be the chance for Sale FC to confirm that playoff spot, or for Tigers to make their final dash to the finish line.
If the early season match at Heywood Road was a good indicator, then this was going to be a tight game. Certainly, from the start it appeared that Ciaran Connolly was targeted for some special treatment, with a couple of big hits and one double tackle that drove him back 5 metres for a turnover ball. It even appeared that Sale’s normal penalty count was looking to make another appearance when Sedgley went ahead early from the boot of Collins after only 12 minutes of an error strewn opening.
However, some powerful play from Andrew Hughes who was imperious form both on the ground and in the line out, saw him drive over the line within 25 minutes.
A conversion from the Captain Liam McGovern is now almost so metronomic, there’s barely any point mentioning them. In the last three games, he’s missed one conversion. This doesn’t sound remarkable until you consider the sheer volume of tries scored and the angles some of the conversions have come from. Today was no different, with a 100% record of 6 from 6.
We could focus on the fact that after the last match Paolo Odogwu, surely a rising star of rugby, had a quiet game and certainly Sedgley had him double and triple teamed on more than one occasion, not always legally, but he somehow still managed line breaks and created room for the others.
It was also obvious that Sedgley had also done their homework on Jack Moorhouse and Ciaran Connolly and kept them marshalled well for long periods, but Ciaran managed to lose his close coverage and get over for a try after 30 minutes. This was duly converted by “Captain’s Boot” Liam McGovern. Since his return to the team, Ciaran has been on fire and making up for lost time scoring on a regular basis having not lost any pace from his enforced exile.
It wasn’t more than five minutes later when Ollie Longmore (now becoming a regular try scorer) bludgeoned his way over the line (from 1 metre or 20 metres depending on what point in the evening you heard the story) for Sale’s third try and it was looking ominous for Sedgley who didn’t look like they were going to cope with the combination of pace and power that Sale were throwing at them from all angles.
After the break a mistake in the lineout allowed Sedgley to score a try which gave them sniff of a fight back, but the door was firmly slammed in their faces when Sam Stelmaszek raced over for the bonus point and Sale were now in 5-point territory with 30 minutes to go.
Again, the early season’s inability to be ruthless has now changed and with time ticking away on Sedgley’ s playoff hopes, Matt Postelthwaite took the field. When you can leave a player of Matt’s ability on the bench this late in the season, you know you’ve got a solid team. He immediately made an impact with a few line breaks and a bullocking run which saw a last defender looking around desperately to no avail for someone to help. A beautifully taken try by a player back from injury is just what Sale need heading into the playoffs.
Heading into the final two minutes and another line break by Paolo who was brought down with a high tackle leading to a try by Tom Ailes who was again a handful off the base of the scrum or in broken play.
This team have timed their run to the playoffs perfectly and with only two home games left before the playoffs they are a must see for the sports enthusiast. Four games to go before we take on the second position in the National 2 South and a home playoff berth beckons if Jonathan Keep’s men keep playing the way they have.