Planet Rugby

Sale edge past Cardiff

16th October 2009 22:01

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Andy Tuilagi Sale v Cardiff

Power runner: Andy Tuilagi

Sale Sharks held on for the narrowest on Heineken Cup wins on Friday, edging past Cardiff Blues 27-26 at Edgeley Park.

A 20-minute blitz around the half-way mark produced three tries for the hosts before a spirited fight-back brought Cardiff back into the game as second try for the visitors in the 79th minute created tense finale.

Sale's win was however soured somewhat by the sight of England prop Andrew Sheridan being forced off the field with a dislocated shoulder.

After a disjointed start, a display of power running from Andy Tuilagi, Sisa Koyaimabole, Lee Thomas and Sheridan gave Sale a healthy lead before second-half revival from Cardiff saw them secure a bonus point.

19-year-old Sale lock James Gaskell also further enhanced his fast-growing reputation with a virtuoso performance.

Cardiff made the early running, dominating possession in the first quarter and shifting the ball around to keep the Sale defence under pressure.

The visiting Welshmen where good value for their 6-0 lead after twelve minutes as Ben Blair slotted two penalties to punish Sale's indiscretions on the ground.

There was no denying the Blues' early vibrancy and they almost exposed Sale down the right flank in the 15th minute. Fa'ao Filise charged down a Sale kick and the ball was gratefully scooped up by Tom Shanklin, who looked a decent bet to reach the try-line only to be given offside.

Sale breathed a massive sigh of relief but former Cardiff centre Lee Thomas was off target with the resultant penalty.

A Charlie Hodgson penalty reduced the gap before Leigh Halfpenny split the upright from the half-way line to keep Cardiff six points ahead. Halfpenny had missed two earlier attempts and the visitors really should have made more of their early advantage.

The game however would swing in Sale's favour after half-an-hour as Tuilagi and Koyaimabole consistently smashed their way through the first line of Cardiff defence.

Koyaimabole was having a stormer of game and would score the first try on 33 minutes. Sale had slowly been gaining momentum and Hodgson and Andrew Sheridan each played a part in getting the big Fijian near the line in very differing styles - Hodgson twisting and turning, Sheridan taking far more direct route.

When Koyaimabole crashed over in a pile of bodies referee Christophe Berdos was satisfied that he had done enough to get the ball down (the TMO could not offer any assistance) and with Hodgson's conversion, the hosts took the lead.

The wheels were coming off the Cardiff cart and when Andy Powell was shown yellow for a tackle without the ball on Dwayne Peel, the visitors lost one of the few men you could stand up to Sale's power running.

Sale's second try was not long in coming as the as simple move with Koyaimabole coming off the back of the scrum exploited the hole left by Powell's absence.

Gaskell took it up from Koyaimabole's off load and captain Dean Schofield finished off in support. Hodgson's conversion gave Sale a 17-9 lead at half time.

The home side struck soon after the break with exactly the same move except this time Gaskell was able to go all the way.

Powell's return added some beef to the Cardiff attack and he would add his name to the score sheet with half-and hour left to play. It was a classic line-out-maul move executed to perfection and all Powell had to do was hang up and flop over as the men in front of him rumbled forward.

Blair's conversion left the scores at 24-16 and Cardiff were right back in with a shout as the game's tempo rose higher and higher.

Hodgson hit the post with a penalty on the hour mark as Sale were denied further breathing space but after Blair landed his third penalty, Hodgson slotted a clever drop-goal to put his side 27-19 in front.

Sale then lost Lions prop Sheridan in the 77th minute and were left stunned two minutes later when Sowden-Taylor pounced on an errant throw from the line-out to touch down and Blair converted.

However, the Sharks held on with a vital victory in a tense final minute.

Man of the match: Gaskell was fantastic, scoring a try and playing vital role in another. He also produced a try-saving tackle in the dying minutes, but for sheer eye-catching power, we'll give the gong to Sisa Koyamaibole. The massive number eight got over the advantage line every time he touched the ball, usually with at least three men needed to bring him down, scoring a try and playing a leading role in creating the other two.

The Scorers

For Sale Sharks:
Tries:
Koyamaibole, Schofield, Gaskell
Cons:Hodgson 3
Pens:Hodgson
Drops:Hodgson

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries:
Powell, Sowden-Taylor
Cons: Blair
Pens: Blair 3, Halfpenny

Yellow cards: Powell (Cardiff - 34th min-tackle without ball)

Sale Sharks: 15 Nick MacLeod, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Andy Tuilagi, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Sisa Koyaimabole, 7 David Seymour, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 James Gaskell, 3 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Gavin Kerr, 18 Jack Forster, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Luke Abraham, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Mathew Tait, 23 Chris Bell.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Tom Shanklin, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tom James, 10 Sam Norton-Knight, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Robin Sowden-Taylor, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Scott Morgan, 4 Deiniol Jones, 3 Taufa'au Filise, 2 Gareth Williams, 1 Gethin Jenkins (c).
Replacements: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Darren Morris, 18 Gary Powell, 19 Ben White, 20 Rhys Williams, 21 Gareth Cooper, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Richard Mustoe.

Venue: Edgeley Park
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Assistant referees: Eric Gauzins (France), Laurent Cardona (France)
Television match official: Daniel Dartigeas (France)
Assessor: Gianni Romano (Italy)

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