Sale sneak home in dire spectacle
October 22, 2010
Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson attempts an offload
© Getty Images
Sale ensured that Leeds are still looking for their first win of the Aviva Premiership season by scraping home 6-3 at Headingley on Friday night.
Two penalties from the boot of centre Nick Macleod proved to be enough for the Sharks after Leeds fullback Ceiron Thomas had snatched the lead at the start of the second-half.
Thomas missed two further penalties, notably from just inside the Sale half eight minutes from the end, to leave Leeds at the foot of the table. Sale, meanwhile, head towards mid-table after a third victory of the season which was hardly inspiring, but enough to overcome the Yorkshire side.
There was further worry for Leeds head coach Neil Back and his World Cup winning team-mate Martin Johnson, the England manager, as Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie failed to return for the second half after suffering a rib injury. The South Africa-born flanker will have a nervy wait for the diagnosis having already missed out on a possible debut on the summer tour to Australia due to a calf injury.
There was better news for Johnson as Mark Cueto and Andrew Sheridan for Sale and Steve Thompson of Leeds emerged unscathed ahead of the England squad meet-up on Monday for the build-up to the autumn internationals.
The first half was a fierce, if uninspiring, battle between the two northern foes. Thomas missed a 16th-minute penalty on his return from bench duty during the European break, and on the three occasions Leeds forced their way into the opposition 22 they turned over possession with Fourie and centre James Tincknell guilty of spilling the ball.
Sale, with England wingers Ben Cohen and Cueto on either flank, were content to let Leeds have the ball with their strong defence repelling everything the Yorkshiremen threw at them in a scoreless first half.
Despite Fourie's absence at the start of the second half, Leeds belatedly got the scoreboard ticking over three minutes in through a Thomas penalty. Macleod levelled matters on 50 minutes after Charlie Hodgson had struck a post with a drop goal when French referee Jerome Garces had allowed advantage.
Macleod then booted Sale ahead on 58 minutes and would have extended that lead had a 60-metre penalty shortly after not hit the upright. From closer in Thomas pushed a kick wide on 72 minutes, after which the hosts began to get desperate as they tried to force the issue. Leeds were guilty of poor passing that will have frustrated Back and director of rugby Andy Key, who are trying to initiate a more free-flowing game at Headingley Carnegie. But Sale, led by Neil Briggs for the first time, were never really threatened and hung on.
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