November 14 2005
Remembrance Day, and the weather finally started to catch up with the season. Would the welcome return of Seabass inspire the pack? Would the back line start to fire like the Sale of old? RK dons his Viking helmet and sharpens his pencil on a broadsword to bring us this report on the night's events.
Andrew Sheridan is the form prop in world rugby, Charlie Hodgson England’s finest playmaker, Mark Cueto his country’s most dangerous attacker and Jason White so highly regarded he captains an improving Scotland side.
Yet it is a testament to PSA’s summer recruitment drive that even without that talented quartet – plus the likes of Seb Bruno and Nacho Lobbe – the Sale juggernaut rumbled to a fifth straight Premiership victory on Friday night.
A year ago, the autumn Tests saw 10 Sharks swim away to take up places in international squads and the heart was ripped out of not only the team, but also the season. But this time around the squad is stronger and the results are following.
This was another to file if not in the ‘winning ugly’ category certainly closer to that than the expansive try-laden style of play we have become used to from Sale down the years.
There were, of course, two beautifully worked tries for Robbo – free from the shackles of the England captaincy and at something approaching his clinical best – which were right out of the top drawer yet this (as with the rest of the games we play during the international periods this season) was all about one thing – winning.
And ‘Le Jim’ gave us a flying start with four minutes on the clock (or should that be 36 minutes on the countdown clock?) when he booted a penalty that owed much to an incisive break from Tino and a powerful surge from Sea Bass.
The lead lasted less than two minutes, though, as Shane Drahm kept the scoring rate at a point a minute by slotting over a drop goal.
Those would be the last points scored for almost half an hour, though, as the quality of the rugby on offer dipped almost as rapidly as the temperature inside EP.
‘Le Jim’ was having an uncharacteristically poor evening as he missed three successive penalties of varying degrees of difficulty, yet it was his clever chip ahead and huge hit as half-time approached that set up the field position from which the deadlock was broken.
Tino was the man to do it as he kicked a simple penalty from in front after Worcester had transgressed on their own line, Johnny Tuamoheloa departing to the bin as a result.
Re-establishing their three-point lead seemed to lift the lads and within a couple of minutes they had stretched the advantage to 10 with Robbo’s first try of the night.
Sea Bass was the architect as he first carried the ball up from the back of the line-out to make a good 30 metres into Worcester territory and then played a part in a lovely loop that enabled Jason to get low and power over in the left-hand corner.
Tino converted to make it 13-3 but the silver lining had a cloud as John Carter departed as the clock ticked down with what was later confirmed as another dislocated shoulder.
And within two minutes of the restart there was more gloom as Drahm skipped inside Tino to score and convert from in front to cut the gap to 13-10.
But the lads were not willing to roll over and another lovely try from Robbo – with the ball worked from right to left yet again for almost a carbon copy finish – made it 18-10.
Drahm pegged us back with a penalty on 51 but as the quality of the play degenerated thereafter, only the sight of Robbo slotting over a drop goal (after Tino had added another penalty to cap an excellent display) did anything to rouse a now ice-cold crowd.
So when the full-time whistle blew, the scoreboard read Sale 24 Worcester 13 and the eight points we have picked up in successive weeks at Leeds and here are already more than our tally during the whole of last season’s international campaign.
Just a shame PSA spoiled the evening by losing to Matt Dawson on Question of Sport.
Still, you can’t win them all.