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Back to Earth again. Sale 39 - Falcons 25. Report

By Leipziger & Monkey1
August 31 2005

Hopes were high as we took the field at Edgeley Park tonight, but as it happened, the Falcons failed to capitalise on two Heineken Cup victories and despite a spirited performance went down 39-25 to Sale.

Our team showed three changes from the XV that downed Perpignan at Kingston, Epi Taione replacing Jamie Noon at inside centre, Andy Long Matt Thompson at hooker, and Cory Harris making his debut at openside flanker instead of Colin Charvis, away with Wales.


Sale drew first blood with two penalties from Charlie Hodgson, before Matt Burke replied for us.


But it was Newcastle who scored the first try when the ball was moved from the right infield and Tom May found himself free to cross for a score which Burke converted.  England hopeful Andrew Sheridan scored a converted try for Sale to put the hosts back ahead, before Michael Stephenson scored in the left corner.


Within minutes May broke free on halfway and made the line, but looked like to this fan like he dropped the ball before scoring.  NO!  Steve Lander awarded a Newcastle try, and Burke’s conversion gave us a 13-22 lead.  Hodgson cut the deficit to just two points by converting his own try before half time, but we’d played well enough to suggest a win could’ve been on the cards.  And boy how we’d have needed it looking at the table.


David Walder increased our lead soon after the break with a drop goal, and Hodgson hit both posts with a penalty, before Dean Schofield scored Sale’s third try, though it was unconverted and left the scores level at 25-25.  Burke hit a penalty of his own off the post before going off injured and being replaced by Noon, and Sale retook the lead with Sebastien Bruno’s try which after Hodgson’s conversion gave the Lancastrians a bonus point and a 32-25 advantage.


The scoreline was complete when May dropped a long kick and Hodgson pounced to score his second try for a final score of 39-25.  A game that suggested so much, and in which we came close to scoring a bonus point in the second half, turned into a zero-points defeat.


Leeds’ win over Northampton means we drop one place to sixth in the Premiership table tonight, with three other matches to be played over the weekend.  This is obviously very disappointing in itself, but it leaves us still nine points off Gloucester in fourth, who have a game in hand now.  We also have to question why AGAIN so many substitutions were made tonight, especially taking off a key player like Mike McCarthy and one of our best on the night, James Grindal.


On the other hand, bar the tries our defence wasn’t that bad tonight, Matt Burke again showing an excellent ability to read the game by crossing the field to make another try-saving tackle in the second half.  Next week we have what should be one of our simpler home games, against Leeds, and we can hopefully look forward to a win there.


One last question, for the players – why didn’t you acknowledge your fans like at Newport?  We await answers.



A view from Monkey1.


First of all I apologise for the poor photographs, a combination of the fog caused by fireworks and a spare set of flat batteries for the camera.


A spare set of flat batteries would not be a bad description of the substitutions tonight. Not a criticism of the players who were brought on, a criticism of the decision to replace them.


Substitutions are necessary I accept, and the front 5 had good reason to tire during this game, but some of the replacements seemed insane. Grindal was clearly the right choice of scrum half for this game, his style suits the Sale game better than Charlton’s. No criticism of Hall, his selection for the England squad is more of a statement of his class than any comment I could make, but he plays a style more suited to a heavier game rather than the Sale lighter and quicker game.


Yet again McCarthy showed himself to be one of Rob’s most astute signings of the summer, and why he was replaced by Sititi yet again is beyond me. Rob may feel that McCarthy is not capable of playing a full game but he seemed fired up and running on all cylinders to me.


We are fortunate that we seem to have a team that works together well around Walder’s excellent direction. It is the stuff that wins games, a group of individuals who just work together well for reasons unknown. I would argue that the team that started this game, as against Newport and against Perpignan, is better than any combination we have seen for some time. On paper they may not seem to be our best without the likes of Wilkinson & Mayerhofler, but they are not playing on paper and you have to recognise the difference between a collection of players and a fully functional team.


The removal of key elements of this team can bring down the whole pack of cards. Losing Burke was bad enough but with the very able & easy to fit in Noon at hand was not the end of the world. Losing Grindal & McCarthy out of the equation broke the web that holds this team together. They were playing well, better than that they were playing marvellously, I dispute Rob’s view that we would have lost more points had the replacements been handled differently.


Rob Andrew is one of my all time heroes. For those who do not know, I lost nearly ten years of rugby and when I last followed the game Rob was right up there at the top. I do not join with those who blame Rob for every failure suffered by the Falcons, instead I admire what he is doing, how he has created and is creating one of the best teams in the country. I have faith that the whole Kingston Park venture will under his guidance become one of the best outfits in Europe in the not too distant future, but if the game just happens to turn against us next week at the same time that the same substitutions are made in the second half, I may just have to bury him in the centre of the pitch under 16 tons of concrete.


I hope I do not require a fresh set of batteries to record the event on camera.

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