Posted in Uncategorized

View from the armchair: Newcastle 20 Sale 14 [GP]

I get really nervous when we dominate the first half as it so often means that we’re going to go to pieces in the second half.

I might have bought the excuses: plastic pitch, five-day turnaround, missing players, losing Bev and Akker late on… But, really, this has happened so often before that it just seems inevitable.

I said about the Toulouse game that I was ready to submit a one-word report, but I realised that it wasn’t the same as a knock-out defeat, we hadn’t just blown everything and have to start from scratch, so take it on the chin and look forward: we’re still in it.

It’s the same with this one: it’s one game in twenty, it’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the end of our challenge for the top four or even for the top two. Move on.

Unlike the Toulouse game, though, I really can’t find it in me to write much about this one. I’ve just had a nice, quiet Christmas and I don’t want to spoil the mood by revisiting painful memories.

We should have won comfortably. We blew it, big time. Move on and use the disappointment (and, I hope, anger) to rebound decisively against Leicester.

I mentioned last week that Newcastle away was the last game of the first half of the season, so we should have a better idea of where we stand since everyone will have caught up.

As I write, Quins have yet to play Bristol in the final game of the round but I fully expect them to win that and push Sale down to third going into the second half.

But, even if Bristol pull off a miracle win, Sale’s position is not as comfortable as it seems.

[Updated 27/12/22: Bristol did, indeed hang for a narrow win, leaving Sale second in the table. Interestingly, that means that the bottom three teams in this round beat the top three.]

The kicking out of Worcester and Wasps has had an asymmetric effect on Sale: since we were due to play them both away in the first half, we lose two home matches for the second half of the season. Sale’s halfway league position is based on having played two more home games than away games, rather than equal numbers. We have to maintain that position by playing 50% more away games than home in the second half.

Of the five chasing teams within ten points of us (including Quins), we play four away with only Leicester at home to ease the pressure.

The other home games are Sarries, Bath and Newcastle. Winning those games will probably only help keep league position; they’re unlikely to improve it (that is, we would be relying on other results to increase any gap between us and a chasing team). We need to be beating Quins, Leicester, Exeter, Gloucester and Northampton to improve our position (they’re all the proverbial eight-pointers) and, as I said, of those only the Leicester game is at home.

I think that’s why this defeat is so depressing: if we can’t hold a lead against a team near the bottom of the table, then what hope do we have at The Stoop or Kingsholm or Sandy Park?

Maybe George and Raffi will restore our early season mojo — especially if Carpenter, Roebuck, Coenie and others make a reappearance — and we’ll start punching through defences again. Or maybe this mid-winter dip really is a result of those factors I mentioned above.

Yeah, or the horse might talk…

Bugger. I didn’t want to write about the Newcastle game because I didn’t want to spoil the holiday mood but I’ve gone and done it, anyway.


The SAMP™ predictions for Leicester at home are:

SAMP–5Sale 28 Leicester 23
SAMP–10Sale 26 Leicester 22

Here’s hoping…



Photographer and science geek. Rugby fan (Sale Sharks).