Sale FC’s season finale ends on a losing note as Cambridge produce the great escape at the CorpAcq Stadium.
With Sale FC’s season finale being one where the home side had already secured their future in National League One in only their first season in the league, today’s game was always going to be more about the visitors Cambridge, and whether or not they could escape the relegation battle that they had become a part of during the second half of the season.
Knowing that the bottom two had already gone, these being Esher Rugby and Loughborough Students respectively, it was going to go down to the wire with three sides, namely Caldy, Birmingham Moseley and Cambridge, who occupied the final relegation place all going into battle knowing a five point win would allow them to survive.
The game was barely three minutes old when Cambridge Centre James Ayrton, was able to latch on to a pass from brother Michael, who had run around the oncoming Sale defence before putting his brother in to the right of the posts, therefore giving the visitors the lead and Fly Half Ben Penfold the opportunity to add the extras in the opening exchanges of the match.
Now that the visitors had taken a seven point lead in the match, Sale were looking to try and get back in the match with a number of attacking possessions that didn’t really come off, due to either sloppy passing or the ball being knocked on in terribly wet conditions.
With the weather playing a large part in the afternoon’s proceedings, Sale struggles continued especially when they had been awarded an advantage, leading to a lineout close to the Cambridge 10m line. Unfortunately, Briggs couldn’t find his man and the advantage was seemingly lost.
On 13 minutes, the visitors managed to score again as Sale coughed up possession once more, leading to Cambridge’s Penfold putting in a cross field kick that Robbie Povey missed, allowing winger Mike Ayrton to go over in the corner unattended. With Penfold missing the extras here, Cambridge now had a lead that they wouldn’t lose even though Sale never ever gave up.
Even though the next 20 minutes saw possession change hands at regular intervals, it was Sale who went into half time very much on the up, as they created a plethora of scoring chances, which they weren’t able to convert, mainly due to some resolute defending from the visitors, but also the fact that they were able to infringe at regular intervals at the breakdown.
With five minutes to go, the infringements by Cambridge were punished as the referee gave Cambridge Flanker Ciaran Moore a yellow card for repeat offences. From this advantage Sale went to the corner giving them their third 5m line out in a row, from here Sale built a great platform leading to Prop Simon Griffiths the chance to rumble over in his final appearance for Sale FC.
Going in to the break, Sale had reduced the arrears to seven points and got the wind in their sails. At the start of the second half, Sale tried hard to make the man advantage count some more, but unforced errors lead to them coughing up possession in valuable areas, providing the visitors with further chances to extend their lead.
Something that they did in the 47th minute, when the returning Moore latched on to a rolling maul set up from their own lineout throw, meaning that the visitors lead was up to 12 points, and the chance to survive the National League One relegation battle becoming more apparent.
At this time however regardless of the latest score, the visitors were going to be relegated as the closest side to them Caldy were beating the other potential relegation candidates Birmingham Moseley by ten points to seven with only 15 minutes to go in the game.
For the next 30 minutes, this game seemed to go into an almost stalemate, with neither side being able to get any real grip on a game, that was fast becoming increasingly error strewn as the weather seemed to affect both sides, even though there were opportunities available as they regularly attacked each other’s halves of the field.
However, there was one final twist yet to come, as on 76 minutes replacement Winger Sam Yawayawa was provided with an opportunity to score in the corner, giving the visitors the five points that they so desperately needed to stay in National League One, therefore relegating our Cheshire neighbours Caldy down in to National Two South from next season.
Even though the afternoon’s result didn’t go the way of Sale FC, they can be safe in the knowledge that they will be playing National League One rugby next season, especially after the pre-season predictions from the national journalists said that “Sale FC would be certain relegation candidates in their first season of National One rugby”.
To watch the highlights of Saturday’s game please follow the link here