Cueto pounces to seal vital Sharks win
April 2, 2010
Mark Cueto scored the winner for Sale
© Getty Images
England wing Mark Cueto ended his long wait for a try by scoring Sale's vital five-pointer in a 17-3 victory over relegation rivals Worcester at Edgeley Park on Friday night.
Cueto's second-half score was complemented by 12 points from the excellent Charlie Hodgson while Mathew Tait terrorised the Worcester defence with a Man of the Match display. The result moves the Sharks six points clear of danger while Worcester are left two points adrift of Leeds at the bottom. Fly-half Willie Walker kicked the visitors' only points in a poor display where their possession and territory mattered for little due to some pedestrian attacking options.
After a tentative opening spell it was the Warriors who launched the game's first meaningful attack but their lack of invention allowed Cueto to snaffle a loose pass and clear his lines. Worcester dominated possession but were unable to fashion a try-scoring opportunity, with Walker and Chris Pennell both missing long-range penalty opportunities to compound their lack of a cutting edge.
Hodgson opened the scoring with a well-taken penalty and doubled Sale's lead with a snap drop-goal after Tait had sparked the home crowd into life with a fantastic outside break that had Worcester scrabbling frantically.
Walker sent a third kick spiralling wide of the uprights but as Sale continued to press Hodgson played the percentages superbly and stroked over a brilliant drop-goal from long-range.
Walker finally got Worcester on the board with a simple kick from in front of the posts just after the break but there was no reward for some early surges towards the Sale line, with skipper Pat Sanderson also forced off after taking a heavy blow.
Walker missed with a shoddy drop-goal but Hodgson failed to punish his profligacy with another penalty following more fine work from Tait. A deft step from the centre opened up the space and after Ben Cohen had powered on Worcester resorted to an illegal block as Sale chased a Hodgson chip.
Sanderson's replacement Chris Cracknell handed three points to Hodgson soon after though, foolishly handling in the ruck and rewarding Sale's pressure. The game's vital moment arrived with Cueto's try, a result of fine handling and some heads-up play from Hodgson.
His half-break allowed Tait to again find space and Neil Briggs powered up in support to run hard at the heart of the Warriors. Marika Vakacegu collected Briggs' offload and when his pass went to ground Cueto collected the ball and pounced in the corner. Hodgson missed the conversion and Worcester were denied a certain score when poor handling wasted breaks from Chris Latham and Rico Gear out wide.
Cracknell had a late chance to secure a losing bonus-point for the visitors but was held up close to the line following a quick-tap penalty, with the TMO condemning the Warriors to yet another defeat in what is becoming a nightmare season.
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
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