Sale FC 5 - 24 CRUFC
By Adrian Fraser
Blood and Sand get 5 points to beat the drop
Cambridge travelled to Manchester in the teeth of Storm Hannah. The Corparch stadium is a wonderful facility with stands on two sides and the clubhouse on the third. However, it is hemmed in by housing - hence the need for the Sharks to move out to a larger stadium and for the training ground a few miles away with additional pitches. There is also limited parking - meaning those who came by car and were immediately behind the sticks were hoping there were not too many kicks at goal. The natives were friendly and made the travelling support very welcome.
Sale had nothing to play for in this match and they struggled to match the intensity shown by the Blood and Sand, who put in perhaps the performance of the season. It is a pity we could not reach that intensity more often across the whole season - and I am sure that is something the playing and coaching group will work on going forward.
We kicked off into the wind, Sale fielded the ball and kicked long. Joey Patrick ran the ball back. The forwards took it through a couple of phases. Fin passed the ball out to Mike Ayrton who made a wonderful break before passing inside to James who finished in style. Seven points up with a minute played.
A few minutes later Cambridge were back in the Sale half. The Sale defence stopped our forward progress, but Ben Penfold saw space and put in an exquisite cross kick. The Sale full-back waited for it to bounce, which was a mistake. Mike Ayrton pounced and scored in the corner. Ben was unable to add the extras - but points were not going to be an issue, we needed tries.
Sale used the wind and their large pack to put in a number of attacks. The first scrum earned them a penalty - but our pack dug in, adjusted and after that the scrum went our way and we won a number of scrum penalties.
Cambridge did have a third strong attack, but it broke down with a penalty for going straight to ground in the ruck a metre out. But for the rest of the half, Sale had the ball and Cambridge had to put a shift on in defence - regularly exploding onto the ball and driving the man in blue backwards. But after a number of attempts they finally drove us over our line.
Another wave of attacks from the home side followed. Eventually we gave away penalties and Ciaran Moore was shown a yellow. It looked like we might go in level, but even a man down, we held out until half time.
We were 5-12 up and knew more scores would come - but with the score at Moseley being 7-10 at half time we were still in the relegation zone. But a score from either team in Birmingham would change things.
Sale were not able to make use of the extra man and Ciaran came back on as we kicked a penalty to the corner. Ciaran rose high in the line out to take the ball and we set up a maul. Sale looked to stop the initial drive but the backs came in and we drove over.
As the half went on we looked to use the wind at our backs by kicking - but were not accurate enough and ended up giving the ball to the hosts far too often. So we played too much rugby on the back foot.
A roar went up from the crowd when Moseley scored and not just from the travelling support - anyone would think there was a rivalry with the club further down the Mersey. News of the full-time whistle in Birmingham meant the crowd - if not the players - knew Cambridge were safe.
Cambridge finally got hold of the ball in the Sale half. We went through the phases then spun the ball wide to Sam. Sam had to shrug off a great cover tackle to dive into the corner. Was he in touch - the touch judge gave a thumbs up, but the ref wanted to confer. On the touchline time seemed to stop, but eventually he raised his arm and we had the bonus point.
There was time for Sale to kick off. Cambridge looked after the ball and Fin booted it into the crowd to end the game.
Final Score: Sale 5 - 24 Cambridge
Tries: J. Ayrton, M. Ayrton, Moore, Yawayawa
Conversions: Penfold (2)