A win’s a win, for a’ that, and let’s not forget that this was a win. Scrappy, yes. Ugly at times, certainly. But after three games, two of them away, Sale are still 4th in the table, with two wins and a narrow, last-minute loss.
Two games in, Irish were looking less of a pushover than they had last year. A narrow defeat away at Worcester and a win at home against Leicester meant that Sale had to do more than just turn up.
To be honest, this was a pretty forgettable game. Rohan’s try was well-worked and well-taken and, for a moment, it looked as if Sale would take control of the match. But Irish were always probing, always posing that bit of threat that meant you were a bit on edge throughout.
That was especially case in the dying minutes of the first half. Akker had, a few minutes before, been warned by the ref about standing up. So, with an attacking scrum 5 metres from the Irish line, what does he do? Stands up. Bing, penalty. From the following line-out, Faf manages, somehow, to get in a high tackle to give away another penalty. Another line-out and a rare moment of defensive laxness and Paddy Jackson broke through and gave the ball to Curtis Rona for an Irish try. With the conversion, the teams went in at half-time 13-all.
Two minutes into the second half, Akker gets bundled over the try line to give Sale a 5-point lead and, fifteen minutes later, AJ kicks his third penalty to make it 21–13 to Sale. We then had 20 minutes of squeaky bum time, as Irish tried again and again to pull back the deficit. Sale’s monumental defence held firm, though, and eventually sphincters across the north-west (and elsewhere) relaxed as the final whistle went on a needed Sale victory.
To be honest, a draw would probably have been a fair result: statistically, there’s not a gnat’s todger between the teams. But life and sport aren’t fair and it’s Sale who get to stay in touch with the leaders and Irish who fall a bit behind.
So, what stood out from a pretty mediocre event? Poss had a great game; he’s going to go far. Rodd put in a good showing for the 25 minutes he was on the pitch. Jonno was… well, Jonno (lucky to stay on the pitch, I felt. Ridley was kind to us on a couple of occasions: I’d have given double movement, not a knock-on for Poss’s not-try).
Other than that, it’s mostly slipped from my memory and I’ve got better things to do than watch it again, so analysis will be severely curtailed this week.
And then, a couple of days later, the bombshell: Dimes has gone. No warning, no (real) explanation. Just… gone. If we take Deaks’s comments at face value, the team and the coaches had no idea (I assume the great and the good knew. Or maybe not). We have no idea why this has happened — ‘personal reasons’ has been overused to the point of being meaningless — and I have no wish to speculate. I’ll theorise about why the line-out isn’t working, or why the backs aren’t connecting, but with subjects like this I will not get involved in idle speculation absent good evidence. I’ll just say that I’m shocked, stunned, disbelieving. I hope this doesn’t have a detrimental effect on team morale.
For now, let’s get behind Deaks as he takes on a new role and we wish Dimes all the best for whatever his future holds.