Mason solves another tricky case

Orrell 12 Sale 6
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AFTER a desperate start to the season, which increased early fears of relegation, Orrell earned their first victory in Division One during an unsatisfactory match.

Delight for Orrell but frustration for Sale, whose second row forward, John Fowler, was sent off for violent play in the second half.

A dreary match overall and little on show at Edge Hall Road to excite Sir John Hall and Rob Andrew in case they were thinking of launching a recruitment campaign in the north-west.

As far as Orrell were concerned this game was of much more significance than a contest between the two premier clubs in the region. Having lost to Harlequins and Saracens, and being therefore pointless and second from bottom before kick-off, it was imperative to show indications of a revival.

By contrast, Sale entered the game with more confidence although their prospects were not helped by the absence of their No 8 Charley Vyvyan, who was suffering from a neck injury.

Orrell earned an early lead through a penalty by full-back Simon Mason, the eventual match winner, but this advantage was not to last. Sale's fly-half Rob Liley quickly equalised with a skilfully taken dropped goal from 30 metres.

Orrell, struggling to put together any fluent moves, relied on another Mason penalty to regain the lead but once again in a dull encounter, it could not be sustained. Although Jim Mallinder almost scored a try for Sale, the points as before depended on the skill of Liley's kicking. His penalty after 20 minutes produced a 6-6 scoreline.

The ordinary standard on display was briefly improved by a dazzling run down the right wing from Chris Yates but this threat from Sale was ended by excellent covering.

Overall, Sale enjoyed the bulk of possession, restricting Orrell to rare appearances in their opponents' 22 before the break. The Cheshire club looked more inventive and their handling more secure but turning round at 6-6, could they be confident of inflicting further damage on Orrell's start to the campaign?

Another dangerous spurt by Yates hinted at a possible score but his chip ahead was intercepted by Austin Healey, Orrell's scrum-half, covering back.

Orrell, desperate for a win, then threw away two good opportunities to seize the initiative. But Mason, earlier accurate, failed to exploit the chances as both his kicks missed the target.

That though did not apply to John Fowler, the Sale lock who was sent off for punching just after an hour.

Mason immediately made amends, his third penalty giving his side a 9- 6 lead midway through the second half.

With Sale counterattacking, Orrell's line was under threat on several occasions, so it came as little surprise that panic set in. Their captain, Paul Johnson, was penalised for a high tackle, but Liley missed the goal, remarkably the ball hitting one post and then the other.

In an exciting climax, Mason avoided the posts, his fourth penalty providing Orrell with their first win of the season.

Orrell: S Mason; J Naylor, P Johnson (capt), I Wynn, L Tuigamala; P Hamer, A Healey; P Mitchell, M Scott, J Cundick, C Cusani, C Cooper, P Manley, J Huxley, S Bibby.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); C Yates, J Baxendell, G Stocks, M Appleson; R Liley, C Saverimutto; P Smith, S Diamond, A Smith, J Fowler, B Baldwin, D Erskine, N Ashurst, M Kenrick.

Referee: H F Lewis (Wales)