A massive game down at Hinckley this weekend saw Sale pick up 4 points to move us clear of the opposition. This was a no holds barred game with a level of commitment from both sides that hasn’t really been matched this season. Sale have a superb defensive record but it was tested throughout this game.
We travelled down to Leicestershire with the knowledge that this would be the biggest test of the season. The atmosphere was electric with a very vocal crowd packing their stand, but, in the end, Sale silenced the crowd with a dogged, brutal and controlled display of game management against a team who most social media pundits had as favourites to win on the day.
Tries from Jake Barron and Arron Reed along with two conversions and four penalties from Chris Johnson saw Sale win this match by a comfortable score, denying Hinckley their bonus point. However, the score doesn’t reflect the sheer physical nature of this game, Hinckley are known for their forward power and they tried to use this to bully our pack. However, Dan Birchall, Neil Briggs, Simon Griffiths, Joe Kelly, John Blanchard and Chris Taylor stood up to them and even managed to turn the tables on them a few times.
The big difference in this game wasn’t forward domination or the speed and agility of the backs (although I’m sure that ex All-Black Scott Hamilton won’t want to run into Arron Reed again anytime soon), the big difference was game management. Captain Andy Hughes made the right calls at the right times, Chris Johnson showed why he’s the all time leading points scorer in the National Leagues by kicking everything he needed to and players knew when to back off and when to apply pressure. This game management means we have the best defensive record in the league with only 240 points conceded (with Hinckley 2nd on 346 points conceded) and the best points difference with 393 (again with Hinckley a distant second on 290).
The only downside to the game was three yellow cards which at one stage late in the game left us with 13 men on the pitch.
Thanks to Dave Hulme for the photographs