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.