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Preston Grasshoppers 27 Sale FC 28
9:10am Monday 2nd September 2013 in Sport
THE final pre-season game was a pulsating encounter from start to finish at Lightfoot Green.
Despite conceding 15 points in the first half Sale put in an excellent display after the break to secure the win over the National 2 North club.
Against a strong Preston side, the opening exchanges saw both teams striving for the advantage but it wasn’t until the12th minute that the hosts took a 5-0 lead when a tap penalty in the Sale 22 ended with prop Chris Gale barging over for the opening try.
Sale lost Luke Wishnowsky to a blood injury on 16 minutes and a minute later ‘hoppers doubled their lead when more good work inside the Sale 22 gave hooker Alan Holmes the try.
The Lancastrians were having most of the possession and territory and with Sale conceding penalties it was no surprise when scrum half Craig Aikman darted over from close range to extend the hosts lead to fifteen points. Fortunately for Sale all three conversion attempts were missed and slowly they began to get more into the game.
Sale started to look more confident in the final minutes of the half gaining some useful possession but half time arrived with no change to the score.
The second period started well for the visitors as centre John O’Donnell raced through the home defence on 42 minutes to score by the posts and Liam McGovern added the conversion.
Despite playing against a strong breeze Sale’s handling was secure and the home side were now conceding penalties. A pick up and go by Jonathan Keep from inside the Preston 22 saw the flanker add a second try and McGovern added the conversion to trim the opposition’s lead to a single point.
Sale kept up the pressure and on the hour, quick ball down the backs saw Perry Alexander come in on an excellent line to score under the posts and McGovern again added the extras to put Sale ahead for the first time at 21-15.
It got even better for Sale six minutes later when an excellent break from O’Donnell looked to have put him in for a second try, and although tap tackled, the centre had the awareness to offload the ball to McGovern who crossed for Sale’s fourth try and added another conversion for a 28-15 lead.
In the closing period ‘hoppers came back well with a try from Jack Walker converted by Sean Taylor on 69 minutes, and a further try with a couple of minutes remaining from Andy Irving.
The deciding conversion drifted on the wind wide of the uprights and while Sale had a tense last 90 seconds they held out for a fine win.
• This Saturday Sale 1st XV are at home to Sandal, while the 2nd XV also have a home match against Altrincham Kersal at Carrington. The 3rd XV are away at Aldwinians 3rd XV. All games kick off at 3.00 pm