League: National 2 North

Wharfedale vs Sale FC

Sale hold their nerve to stay top

The league leaders headed to the Yorkshire Dales on Saturday to play a Wharfedale side narrowly outside the drop zone.

Spurred on by a vocal home crowd, the home side started well, dominating both possession and territory, but Sale survived the early onslaught and gradually found a foothold in the game.

Scrum half, Matt Bradley, seem destined to score the first points of the match, as he followed his own cute grubber kick behind the defence, only to be pulled back by the opposing number 5 who was duly shown a yellow card.

However, the visitors did not have to wait long as, from the resulting lineout, the forwards made an assault on the Yorkshiremen’s try line with centre, Jack Moorhouse, eventually plunging over and Chris Johnson adding the extras.

The remainder of the first half was dominated by the referee’s whistle and a couple of fairly minor scuffles, the last of which saw Gareth Rawlings and Wharfedale’s number 8 leave the field for 10 minutes contemplation time.

HT Wharfedale 0 Sale 7

Playing up the slope in the 2nd half, Sale came out aggressively and were soon awarded a penalty which Chris Johnson stroked over, although the Yorkshiremen were still very much in the game and quickly responded with a penalty of their own.

The decisive moment of the match came via a piece of individual brilliance from winger, Jonty Rawcliffe, who collected an up and under on the half way line, before out-sprinting several opposing players to dive over in the corner. Chris Johnson then added a superb conversion, fist-pumping his way back to the halfway line, much to the ire of the home fans.

Following further successful penalty kicks by both fly halves, Sale’s ambitions of a bonus point win were to be severely hampered as replacement prop, Jon Blanchard, was shown a red card for an apparent head-butt.

However, the dogged defence that has served them so well all season ensured that they saw out the remaining 10 minutes, extending their winning run to a mightily impressive 17 games.

FT Wharfedale 6 Sale 20

With no game the previous week and second placed Sedgley Park securing two bonus point wins, the gap at the top of the table is down to just 2 points, albeit Sale do have an all-important game in hand.

Highlights Video

Jonty and Jake Catch Up with Sale FC Rugby TV

Sale FC vs Stourbridge

Daylight at the top

Sale took on second placed Stourbridge at Heywood Road in a match, quite rightly, billed as a potentially defining game in the race for promotion.

Spurred on by a healthy crowd, the blue and whites came out of the blocks like Olympic sprinters as, within a couple of minutes, Rhys Davies made a brilliant charge down and, from a resulting lineout, the forwards rumbled towards the line with Joe Kelly crashing over.

The shell-shocked visitors had barely had chance to draw breath, when, following a lengthy consultation with the touch judge, their prop was shown a straight red card and Chris Johnson was soon to extend the lead with a well struck penalty.

Sale were dominating possession and, after an arrow-like kick to the corner from Chris Johnson, the men from the Black Country could not contain the juggernaut pack, with Jake Barron this time touching down.

The away side did finally start to settle into the game, with several powerful runs from their forwards a feature, but Sale resisted the pressure and then scored a third try as Adam Aigbokhae emerged from the back of yet another powerful maul.

HT Sale 22 Stourbridge 0

Stourbridge regrouped during the interval and, despite playing with 14 men, started to compete well and justify their lofty position.

As always though, the Sale defence was proving a tough nut to crack and even when the visitors did manage to cross the line, several home players were on hand to prevent the ball reaching the turf.

The persistent rain and heavy pitch began to have more and more of a detrimental influence on proceedings and it looked as though the league leaders were going to miss out on a bonus point, as they had at Huddersfield two weeks earlier.

However, with time almost up, they broke to devastating effect as Chris Johnson put an inch perfect kick over the tiring defence. Mark Lawrence collected well from the sodden ground and offloaded for Chris Mayor to scamper in with Chris Johnson adding the extras again.

FT Sale 29 Stourbridge 0

With third place Hinckley also losing, Sale extended the gap at the top to 8 points with their 16th straight win and, with only 7 games left to play, they are in a fantastic position to achieve the dream of playing National League One rugby next season – albeit the portly lady is not exercising her vocal chords just yet!

Huddersfield vs Sale FC

Sale extend lead at the top

Sale travelled across the Pennines for this rearranged fixture against Huddersfield with the picturesque Yorkshire venue bathed in sunshine.

The Beautiful Setting of Huddersfield Rugby Club

The game started fairly evenly with both defences forcing a number of errors but the visitors were first to affect the scoreboard as the reliable boot of Chris Johnson made no mistake with two penalties.

Gareth Rawlings was already having an influential game in the second row and, following his good work stealing the ball in a ruck, Tom Ailes galloped deep into the home side’s territory before off-loading for Sam Stelmaszek to scamper in for the first try.

Sale’s defence, a major strength all season, then survived a sustained period of Huddersfield pressure before the blue and whites broke out to devastating effect with Matt Bradley making good yardage before releasing Adam Aigbokhae to race in.

HT Huddersfield 0 Sale 20

Sale started the second half on the front foot and were soon awarded another penalty which Chris Johnson kicked to extend the lead.

However, the Yorkshiremen were proving resilient opponents and another period of considerable pressure, during which Sale’s Adam Aigbokhae was shown a yellow card, was eventually rewarded with a try and conversion.

The table toppers were not be derailed though as they went through phase after phase before moving the ball out wide for Jon Blanchard to plunge over the line. This is John’s first ever senior try for the club, a momentous occasion for the ex m&j player.

The only question remaining was whether Sale could score a fourth try and achieve the additional bonus point but, despite Huddersfield being reduced to 13 players late on, they could not quite seize the opportunity, with Tom Ailes try being ruled a double movement.

FT Huddersfield 7 Sale 28

Yet another win on the road extended Sale’s winning run to 15 games and increased the gap at the top of National League 2 North to 5 points, with nearest rivals Stourbridge losing in a high scoring game at Tynedale.

Next week we travel to Luctonians who languish at the bottom of the table. Sale FC were in the same position two years ago and know how hard they’ll be fighting to stay in National 2 North.

 

Sale FC vs Otley

Sale ease to 14th straight win

With the away fixture at Macclesfield having been postponed the week before, Sale entered the match against Otley fresh and raring to go and it didn’t take them long to open the scoring as Chris Johnson sent a soaring penalty between the uprights from almost halfway.

The first try soon followed as the forwards applied considerable pressure at a scrum and the opposing pack crumbled with the referee having no option but to give a penalty try.

The forwards were clearly straining at the leash after a week off, and one particular tackle from Rhys Davies in midfield gained audible gasps from the home crowd and probably registered more on the Richter scale than the earthquake that occurred around the same time!

The pace and power of the Sale attack was proving too much for the Yorkshiremen and Andy Hughes and Sam Stelmaszek both crossed the whitewash in quick succession following sweeping moves.

The visitors responded well with a neatly worked try of their own but this proved to be a minor hiccup as Jack Moorhouse, then Mark Lawrence finished off more incisive attacking play to stretch the lead.

HT Sale 38 Otley 5

Otley looked a different side at the start of the second half, dominating territory for a good quarter of an hour, and they were unlucky not to score a second try when the winger dropped the ball with the line in sight.

However, Sale regrouped and took control again with Gareth Rawlings sprinting from the back of a rolling maul to dive over for a sixth try.

The home side’s pack was once again proving irresistible and, when the away side failed to cope with another powerful scrum, the referee awarded a second penalty try of the match.

Sale reserved the best for last as a jet-heeled Chris Mayor left defenders in his wake on a lung busting break before the ball was recycled for Chris Johnson to score and add the simplest of conversions, taking his tally in the game to 20 points.

FT Sale 59 Otley 5

Another convincing win to keep Sale firmly in control at the top of National League 2 North with less than a third of the season to go.