Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sale - Bath


On Friday, I had an opportunity to attend Aviva Premiership game and watch Sale Sharks – the team which I have been supporting for many years. Sale Sharks faced a great rugby club from Bath. This time, apart from following the game with other fans, I took on an extra task of reporting on the game to RugbyPolska.pl.

The new Sale Sharks’ stadium, purpose-built for rugby, is well impressive. Works on its infrastructure continue – these involve expanding parking space and facilitating access by adding an extra motorway exit. A lot has been done so far to eliminate the difficulties and the journey to and from is much easier comparing to the last season. AJ Bell Stadium is not as renown as Edgeley Park where visitors found it really hard to win. But the atmosphere is getting better and better, particularly at the south stand, where the cheering is the loudest. Supporters have a choice of a few beer makes, including real ale. You can get 1 pint of beer or a “bigger” 2-pint glass – very handy for those with greater thirst.

It was not a typical start of the game. The hosts ran out wearing their away outfits. The reason for this were visitors’ jerseys which resembled Sale Sharks stripy white and blue kit. Bookmakers’ favourite was Bath but Manchester fans were convinced that their team can cope with the task.

Sale began very well as Jonathan Mills seized the ball after a hard hit on one of the opponents. After long attack, the efforts paid off and a penalty kick was awarded to Sharks. Danny Cipriani missed it slightly, though.  Shortly after, George Ford had a chance to score a penalty for Bath but his kick was wide of the mark. 10 minutes later Danny Cipriani scored a drop goal, Sale Sharks were leading 3:0. The joy did not last long. Peter Stringer – one of the most talented scrum half – started and a massive winger from Fihji Rokodoguni completed the move which cost Sale Sharks 5 points. Ford converted and Bath took the lead 3:7. Bath carried on attacking and made Sale Sharks life really difficult. A very worrying thing was Sale’s inability to defend 1 on 1. Bath was close to scoring another try following  Fa’osiliva’s interception, thankfully the touch line saved the hosts. Cipriani helped to move the game onto the rival’s part of the pitch and the danger was overcome.

Sale forwards dominated their rivals but the team had difficulties in breaking through the solid defense. A number of kick – pass moves by Cipriani and Cueto, although imprecise, were loudly applauded at the stands.

In the 20th minute, Mark Cueto collided into Rob Miller as they tried to catch a difficult ball and both players ended up with head injuries. Sam Tuitupou, fan’s favourite, and Joe Ford replaced the injured. Tuitupou made an impact straight away as he engaged a few defenders which ended up with penalty kick for Sale. Cipriani added extras from the tee...

30 minutes into the game, Mark Cueto, with his head stitched, returned to the game and a few minutes later made a final pass to Andy Forsyth who scored a try in the far corner, and excellent Cipriani kicked 3 points. Bandaged Rob Miller came back to the pitch and Sam Tuitupou returned to the bench. Just before the half-time George Ford lowered the deficit to only 3 points. The first half finished 16:13.

The defense in the second 40 minutes was more effective. Any attempt to kick on the posts was extremely important as it might have a great impact on the final result. The author of the first kick was Cipriani and in the 48h minute he scored points from 50 meters. A well-measured kick made the ball fly between the posts and it touched the ground only a few centimeters behind the posts. In the 53rd minute, the visitors stood a similar chance to score but they missed. Not long later George Ford got the second chance, this time it was a successful kick which closed the gap to 6 points.

It is worth mentioning that the atmosphere at the stands was fantastic. Although everyone knew that points from the tee may be decisive, the fans were behaving impeccably. Total silence at the stands during penalty kicks helped the kickers from both teams to concentrate.

60 minutes into the game, Steve Diamond replaced some players, and among others the team was joined by Henry Thomas and Vadim Cobilas. Bath took control over the game and it looked that they could steal the victory from the hosts. Micheal Paterson was sin binned and the visitors had the advantage. They were awarded a penalty but decided to kick at the posts and missed the target. Sale showed a real character and defended very well on own 5m line. Sam Tuitupou was applauded as he smashed the hooker. In the last few minutes Sale won the penalty. Joe Ford replaced Danny Cipriani and was really close to taking away Baths’ bonus points. Regrettably, the ball hit the pole and the score remained unchanged. Sale Sharks beat Bath after a very good and exciting game 19:13.

It was a great pleasure to see the game. The atmosphere was amazing. Sale supporters are known for good manners and have a good knowledge about rugby. They show great respect to their rivals  for example, by keeping quiet during penalty kicks. Another example is the standing ovation given to an icon of Irish rugby Peter Stringer. The player had a very good game and contributed to scoring points by Bath. The entire stadium applauded as he was leaving the pitch replaced by Martin Roberts.

Congratulations to Sale Sharks and well done to Bath for good and ambitious performance.