By Paul Morgan, editor of Rugby World Magazine
What a difference a new man at the helm can make! The result reads in the papers: Sale 28 Saracens 22 but read this as Pete Anglesea: 4 points!
Now I’m not saying Pete is a miracle worker and Sale will now go on to qualify for the Heineken Cup and conquer the world if Sale owner Brian Kennedy gives him the job full-time. But today’s victory over Saracens was all about desire, all about commitment and all about Sale out-muscling Saracens.
From the moment I arrived at Edgeley Park for this game it was clear we were in a new era, the first match with Anglesea in charge, after Mike Brewer was sacked. It was a great day to make the trip to Stockport – a great rugby day for the North-West.
They love Big Red at Sale and it shows.
A big crowd (more than 8,000), the New Year and the prospect of Gavin Henson obviously helped, but somehow Sale managed to create the start of a new era today and on the pitch it manifested into them tearing out of the blocks and scoring three tries in the first 30 minutes, against a side that is capable of winning the title.
It all came from their physicality at the breakdown and general commitment to the cause. It looked like Sale hadn’t turned up, but that wouldn’t be giving Sale enough credit. They were like Tasmanian Devils in the first half an hour!
Obviously having Charlie Hodgson back in the side controlling the game helped but it was the physicality of players like James Gaskell, Carl Fearns, Sisi Koyamaibole and Karena Wihongi that rattled Saracens. And bizarrely Brendan Venter’s side had no answer – very worrying for them!
Dwayne Peel was also in great form at the base of the scrum, hassling and harrying and using quick service to keep Sale going.
Who cares that they didn’t score a point for the final 50 minutes? Certainly the vast majority of the crowd at Edgeley Park didn’t as the four points was everything.
Those four points took Sale eight points clear of Newcastle and 11 clear of Leeds, which I believe puts them in a position to survive.
Friday night kick offs: Have 7.45pm kick offs on a Friday night run their course? What do fans think? Time to move to Saturday afternoon? Or even Sunday afternoon?
James Gaskell: Are you Tom Croft in disguise? This guy does everything Croft does, and almost as well. He was the clear man of the match and played so well than a number of Saracens players took shots at him – he annoyed them that much. After a year of injuries he needs ten games under his belt but when he does don’t rule him out of the World Cup. He’ll play for England – it is when not if.
Meet Gaskell, he’s definitely one to watch:
Charlie Hodgson – Message to Sale. Find out what salary he wants for the next three years and within reason pay him it. Don’t let him do a Cristiano Ronaldo and leave a big side in the North-West. You won’t be able to replace him, trust me!
Gavin Henson – Well it’s simple. The guy is not at outside centre so why play him there? Saracens have bizarrely decided to keep him out of “decision-making” positions. Does that mean he’s not fit enough to play 12? Put him in a position where he can do some damage, please.
Dwayne Peel: Remind me why he’s not in the Wales squad, fighting Mike Phillips for the Wales No 9 shirt. Oh yes, there is not adequate reason. Leaving him out is very much Wales’ loss.
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