Planet Rugby

Sale handed late Blues

04th October 2008 16:52

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Nick MacLeod v Cardiff Blues

Old faces: MacLeod takes on centre Robinson

Cardiff Blues had replacement Richard Mustoe to thank as they snatched a last-minute 18-17 away victory over Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park on Saturday.

Leigh Halfpenny and Rudi Keil made it one try apiece in the first half, but the Welsh side had the final say when Mustoe crossed in the left corner to ensure Sale had nothing more than a losing bonus-point to show for their efforts.

Sale boss Philippe Saint-Andre used the match as an opportunity to rest his established players amid a gruelling schedule, which saw his side play at London Irish on Wednesday and lose their unbeaten start to the Premiership season.

A 28-6 reverse at the Madejski Stadium ended the Sharks' run of four straight victories in which they did not concede a try to set a new record.

Not one of the players who lined up against the Exiles were retained in a youthful-looking starting line-up against Cardiff Blues as the hosts fielded a team of fringe players.

Seven of Sale's starting XV were given their debut taste of first-team action this season, among them former Blues utility-back Nick MacLeod, who lined up to make his first start at full-back.

And MacLeod struck the opening blow with a well-struck penalty from 40 metres to edge Sale ahead in only the second minute looked a promising omen for Sale.

Ben Blair, MacLeod's opposite number, then spurned the chance to draw Cardiff level moments later when he skewed a penalty wide, but the home kicker did likewise in the tenth minute as both sides initially struggled to find any rhythm.

That changed in spectacular fashion in the twelfth minute when the visitors cut Sale to pieces thanks to a piece of individual skill from scrum-half Richie Rees.

Rees, collecting possession on the right-hand side of the pitch around 40 metres from the visitors' line, advanced forward at pace and sold two Sharks players a delightful dummy, giving him the space to sprint forward and send the supporting Halfpenny over the line with a clever underarm offload.

Halfpenny gave his side the best possible chance of the additional two points by touching down under the posts, and Blair duly obliged with the boot to put the Blues 7-3 ahead.

However, Sale needed only three minutes to find a score of equal quality as stand-in scrum-half Chris Leck's long offload found Spaniard Oriol Ripol lurking on the left flank.

He raced forward and played a neat one-two with stand-in fly-half Richard Wigglesworth before a neat, short offload sent Keil over the line from close range.

MacLeod failed to convert and then both and he Blair missed penalties as the blustery conditions made kicking duties difficult.

Both men did, however, claim penalties before the interval to ensure Sale went in with a slender 11-10 advantage, but a man down for a short period either side of the break after hooker Marc Jones was sent to the sin-bin.

Another MacLeod penalty edged Sale further ahead after the break but Ceri Sweeney added a penalty for Cardiff Blues to keep the gap to just one point.

And MacLeod's fourth kick looked to have sealed it for the hosts before Mustoe finished off a fine, flowing move in the left-hand corner to snatch the points.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:

Tries: Keil

Pen: MacLeod 4

For Cardiff Blues:

Tries: Halfpenny, Mustoe

Con: Blair

Pen: Blair, Sweeney

Sale Sharks: 15 Nick MacLeod, 14 Selorm Kuadey, 13 Rudi Keil, 12 Andy Tuilagi, 11 Oriol Ripol, 10 Richard Wigglesworth, 9 Chris Leck, 8 Carl Fearns, 7 David Tait, 6 Jason White (c), 5 Brent Cockbain, 4 Chris Jones, 3 Martin Halsall, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Lionel Faure.

Replacements: 16 Rob O'Donnell, 17 Ross Davies, 18 James Gaskell, 19 Alex Shaw, 20 Johnny Kennedy, 21 Nick Royle, 22 Will Cliff.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Jamie Robinson, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Gareth Thomas, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Mark Lewis, 7 Martyn Williams, 6 Andy Powell, 5 Paul Tito (c), 4 Bradley Davies, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 T. Rhys Thomas, 1 John Yapp.

Replacements: 16 Gary Powell, 17 Gareth Williams, 18 Deiniol Jones, 19 Robin Sowden-Taylor, 20 Darren Allinson, 21 Nick Robinson, 22 Richard Mustoe.

Referee: Tim Hayes (Wales)

Touch judges: Huw David (Wales), Sean Brickell (Wales)

Television match official: David Hudson (England)

Assessor: Brian Leigh (England)

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