Sale Sharks round-up

OVER the course of the festive period, Sale Sharks picked up two important victories, with a defeat at the hands of Newcastle sandwiched in between.

Fijian fly-half Nicky Little kicked them to their third league win since October against Bedford on Boxing Day. Their last win in the league was on October 10 against Harlequins.

Both sides are struggling and needed to win the match for the points, but lady luck was not on Bedford's side, as a crash on the M6 saw them arrive at Heywood Road a mere thirty minutes before kick-off.

Little landed a penalty within five minutes, but the visitors answered back almost immediately with a penalty of their own from Gomarsall. Sale increased their pressure and Little scored with another place-kick.

In the second half, handling was made difficult by the driving rain, but both sides seemed to be committed to running with the ball.

More penalties and a drop goal, added to Janneman Brand's try - the only one of the game - gave the Sharks a 22-3 win.

It was a different story at Kingston Park on 29th

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December, when Newcastle beat them 12-6, their first win of the season.

Sale did all their scoring in the first half, courtesy of two Nicky Little penalties; but Jonny Wilkinson matched him kick for kick and made sure the scores were tied at six come half time.

Sale landed their two out of five attempts, which cost the visitors a lead they did not really deserve.

The game saw a number of injuries, the main worries on the Sale side being Jos Baxendell and newly-fit Steve Hanley.

Newcastle lost skipper Gary Armstrong and Scotland prop George Graham.

A poor second half was only punctuated by two scores - both for Wilkinson. He landed a penalty and, in the match's only really piece of excitement, converted a 40 metre drop-goal attempt late in the game.

Sharks got back to winning ways against Leeds at Headingley on Monday.

The Tetley's Bitter Cup fourth round tie ended 13-3 in Sale's favour, as Andy Blyth became the first player to breach the Tykes' line for almost two months.

The powerful Leeds pack held their own against the Sharks, but they were unable to turn first-half territorial domination into points and paid for lapses in discipline.

Centre Blyth scored the only try of the match, weaving his way over from a five-metre scrum. Three players found themselves in the sin-bin at one point or another, but referee Robin Goodliffe's tough stance had the desired effect.

Nicky Little put Sale further into the lead with his second 40 metre penalty of the match on 63 minutes. Leeds' only points came courtesy of a penalty from fly-half Jon Benson - but the tie might have followed a different course had Tykes winger Simon Middleton clung onto a difficult interception chance in the opening minutes.

Benson was also wide with a straightforward shot at goal in the first half, but generally, Leeds could not complain about the result and will now be free to concentrate all their energies on their promotion campaign, whilst Sharks will travel to Bristol in the next round on January 29/30.

Converted for the new archive on 13 March 2001. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.