Posted in match reports

View from Smithy’s Bar: Exeter 24 Sale 22 [GP]

“We are fully capable of beating Exeter at Sandy Park if we can keep fifteen men on the—”. Bugger.

Look at it this way: eight minutes down to thirteen and another four one man short and still it was just a missed conversion between the teams.

I have a confession: I haven’t properly watched this game. I was at Heywood Road to watch the women’s game, so I sort of saw the first half and caught snatches of the second. I haven’t had an opportunity to watch the replay, so this report is likely to be a bit short on detail.

First thing: that was three points dropped, not a point gained. I’m not compromising on that; bone-headed indiscipline cost us a victory that was there for the taking. Arguably, we should now be seventeen points ahead of Northampton, not eight, and we shouldn’t be under such immense pressure to beat Saracens next up.

There were occasions which, had the fates looked more kindly on us, would have seen us take the victory: if the ball had sat up a bit better for O’Flats; had Dugdale not scored the try, so we got the PT and the other two points (or if Pearce had binned the Exeter player despite us scoring the way he binned Dugdale despite them scoring).

These things happen in every match but none of them should have mattered, because the simple fact is that we gifted Exeter fourteen points that, on the evidence of the rest of the game, they wouldn’t otherwise have scored. And wouldn’t have scored, despite dominating possession and territory, and with more defenders beaten and metres gained by some margin.

I also wonder if trying to shoehorn both George and Rob into the starting fifteen was a wise move. I can’t really see the logic in replacing a very good outside centre with a decent outside centre just because he’s been a very good fly half up till this point. I’d have started Rob at 10, then done a straight swap second half with George. Later in the season, do it the other way around.

Rob deserves his place; we have to play George. But compromising the 13 channel is not the way to solve that particular problem, I fear.

But I don’t want to dwell on opportunities missed, comfort zones getting less comfortable and shoulders being nervously looked over.

Let’s assume (hope?) that the disciplinary problems of the last two games were a blip and that we will play more typically (for the season) against Sarries on Sunday. Because, if we do get our act together again, I sincerely believe that we can do the job and get the win to restore a little bit of comfort back into the league position.

We have another opportunity here: Bristol are capable of keeping Northampton off our backs, and Harlequins will likely even things up with Exeter. Gloucester don’t play, so we have a good chance to open up the gap again. You also have to believe that we can get wins against Irish and Bristol away and against Newcastle at home.

I wonder if George Ford being hauled down to England camp might just work in our favour since we’ll probably have to go back to the tried and tested Warr/du Preez combination at half-back with Sam J at outside centre. That might just tip the balance, especially if Akker is also fit.

Just, for pity’s sake, keep fifteen men on the pitch.

We did better against Exeter than SAMP™ predicted, but not better enough. Let’s see if we can do even betterer this week:

SAMP–5Sale 16 – 17 Saracens
SAMP–10Sale 17 – 20 Saracens

We can do this…



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