Planet Rugby

Sale start 2010 with a win

01st January 2010 19:55

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James Gaskell Sale running for a try against Harlequins January 2010

Gaskell: Scored the opening try

Sale pulled clear of the Guinness Premiership relegation zone with a dramatic 21-16 win over Harlequins, their third in 20 days at the Londoners' expense.

Quins trailed 21-9 after 56 minutes but grabbed a foothold with Tom Guest's try on the hour and winger Ugo Monye went over for what could have been the match-winner in injury time only for the video referee to disallow the score for a foot in touch.

The Sharks were never at their fluent best but, on a night of sub-zero temperatures at an Edgeley Park passed fit only an hour before kick-off, they were grateful to start the New Year with a precious victory, their first in the Premiership since November.

Harlequins, beaten by their Stockport-based opponents twice in the Heineken Cup in December, have now lost four successive matches in all competitions but left Edgeley Park with their heads held high.

They were hit by the late withdrawal of John Andress and Nils Mordt whereas Sale were boosted by the return of internationals Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait and Dwayne Peel, with the latter producing a man-of-the-match performance.

The pivotal moment came 40 seconds before half-time when Sale's lively hooker Neil Briggs tore through the heart of the Harlequins defence and sent the supporting James Gaskell over for a glorious 70-metre try.

Charlie Hodgson had just levelled the scores with his second penalty of the half, cancelling out two efforts from Nick Evans, and his touchline conversion gave the Sharks a 13-6 interval lead.

It was tough on the visitors, who had looked the most enterprising side, largely through the sublime touches of fly-half Evans.

The New Zealander mixed up his game superbly and caused anxiety in the Sale defence with his deft kicking, while left winger Tom Williams ought to have made more of a clever chip from Danny Care.

Up to Gaskell's breakaway try, the Sharks' only threat had come from number eight Sisa Koyamaibole, who proved a handful for the Quins defenders with his powerful running and once broke clean through only to be recalled for a forward pass.

Sale were more purposeful in the second half, however, with Dean Schofield, Carl Fearns and Matthew Tait punching holes in the Quins' defence and it was no surprise when they extended their lead.

Peel demonstrated nimble feet to open up a gap and Tait got left winger Ben Cohen charging over for his fourth try of the season.

At 21-9, the contest appeared over but the visitors remained a threat while ever Evans was pulling the strings.

He charged down Hodgson's attempted clearance and was inches away from getting the touchdown but he went off injured on 56 minutes after kicking a third penalty.

That might have signalled the end of Harlequins' resistance but the game was back in the balance on 61 minutes when replacement forward Guest forced his way over from close range for a try and Rory Clegg added the conversion to cut the gap to just five points.

Quins piled on the pressure in the last five minutes and the Sharks defence worked overtime to keep their line intact, with Hodgson pulling off the all-important tackle on Monye.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: Guest
Pens: Evans 3
Cons: Clegg

For Harlequins:
Tries: Gaskell, Cohen
Pens: Hodgson 3
Cons: Hodgson 2

Sale: 15 Nick Macleod, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Jonny Kennedy, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 David Seymour, 6 Carl Fearns, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 Jack Forster, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Eifion Roberts.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Gavin Kerr, 18 Martin Halsall, 19 Chris Jones, 20 Luke Abraham, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Chris Bell, 23 David Docherty

Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 David Strettle, 13 George Lowe, 12 Nils Mordt, 11 Tom Williams, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Will Skinner (c), 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Robson, 4 James Percival, 3 John Andress, 2 Matt Cairns, 1 Aston Croall
Replacements: 16 Tani Fuga, 17 Ceri Jones, 18 Mark Lambert, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Karl Dickson, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Ugo Monye

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