You could hardly call this game a high-octane thriller but it was entertaining and interesting in its own way. Not hugely memorable, however, so this is going to be a bit brief.
I’m not sure how much useful information you can glean from these sorts of matches. I mean, it’s generally agreed (among supporters) that the PRC should be about development players, blooding them in a competitive competition alongside more established players. I’m not sure how many DoRs are of the same opinion…
Alex Sanderson appears to be one of them, though, as we had a decent mix of old heads and young legs, a couple of whom, I admit, I didn’t recognise.
As with the team, the game was a mix of gnarly pragmatism and callow enthusiasm. Newcastle’s first try was a type specimen for the adage “don’t let the ball bounce” as two Sale players (nameless to protect their blushes) watched the ball bounce between them and up into the arms of Will Haydon-Wood who was able to stroll in under the posts. I daresay that will be mentioned in training at some point this week.
Five minutes later, we saw the other side of youth as Jack Metcalf recovered neatly from a wayward pass to run through the defence and score in the corner.
How is it that Rob du Preez can nail a conversion from wide out on the wrong side, but miss one from further in on the right side?
Said miss was the follow-on to a lovely, mazy run by Arron Reed for Sale’s second try and a half-time lead of 15-7. This is the sort of thing we want from Arron; just need him to up the defensive side, now.
Ten minutes or so into the second half, we’d had an exchange of penalties when Earle went around the end of Sale’s defence for Newcastle’s second try. The conversion went wide, so the score was now 18-15, where it stayed for the next fifteen minutes of back-and-forth.
So, there you are, twelve minutes to go with a three-point lead. What are you going to do? Give up two brainless penalties and gift them a 5-metre attacking line-out. The score from the maul was as inevitable as it was unnecessary. Fortunately, Haydon-Wood had Rob’s kicking boots on and missed the conversion again.
Old Sale might well have bumbled their way to the end of the game and a two-point defeat, but new Sale worked hard and were rewarded with Rouban Birch’s try on seventy-two minutes. Rob’s conversion meant we now had a five-point lead with just five minutes to go. There was still time to give it away, though – and they nearly did – but they held on well enough to get to the end without further mishap.
So, a win, and not to be sniffed at, although I suspect that the nature of the competition means that the defeat at Leicester scotched any chance of progressing and retaining the trophy.
It was good to see some of the upcoming players in action, but I feel we learned more about the future of Sale Sharks at Twickenham on Saturday than we did at the AJ Bell on Friday.
Back to the Premiership briefly next week. Meanwhile, have some pictures from Friday.
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