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Sharks outwitted by clever Irish
Sale Sharks 8
London Irish 11
THE stage was set for a Sharks victory in their hundredth game at Edgeley Park – but high flying Irish had other ideas.
Kingsley Jones’s team battled hard but weren’t smart enough to outwit the visitors from the south. The margin of defeat was narrow enough for the home side to capture a ‘losing bonus’ point again, but they had off-key Irish kicker Peter Hewat to thank for missing two penalties and a conversion attempt.
One thing this newly-developing Sharks team possesses is bravery, but they were clinically exposed three minutes before the half time break when former favourite Elvis Seveali’i scorched down the left wing to set up the prolific Sailosi Tagicakibau for his sixth try of the season. Earlier, popular prop Eifion Roberts had rumbled over for a home try after strong work from number eight Sisa Koyamaibole, but two Hewat penalties extended the score to 11-5 at half time.
In the 45th minute, Irish lost winger Thompstone to a serious ankle dislocation, two minutes before third-choice Sharks’ kicker Nick Macleod reduced the arrears with a huge penalty. In a strange second half, with the quality of the play not enhanced by inconsistent officiating by rookie referee Garner, no more points were scored, although both sides, with their heavy packs and Pacific Island representation, produced plenty of muscular effort.
Matters got out of hand three minutes from the end, with Irish replacement scrum half Peter Richards swinging an elbow in the direction of Neil Briggs’s head and being sent off. There wasn’t enough time for the Sharks to take advantage of their numerical superiority.
Despite the reverse, there were plenty of positives to take from this Sharks’ performance, including the control of Macleod and Vakacegu, and strong efforts in the pack from Cockbain and Gaskell. Against the Irish locks Casey and Kennedy, it was understandable that the Sharks’ lineout would struggle.
The next two weeks see the Sharks in Heineken Cup action, starting on Sunday afternoon at Toulouse (kick off 3 p.m. British Summer Time). On Friday week, Cardiff Blues, with their bevy of British Lions stars, visit Edgeley Park. For tickets, ring 08444 994 994. This game will see the debut of the club’s new European home shirt of black and cyan, the colours of their sponsors UKFast, the successful internet hosting company based in City Tower, Manchester.