Rugby Round-up: Sale's time

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The Independent Online
FEW pundits expected Northampton to be faced with a rearguard action after only a fortnight of the Courage campaign.

But Tim Rodber's troops, who had already been given a going-over by Leicester and Bath, further confounded their pre-season billing as title challengers yesterday when they surrendered 41-6 at Sale and slid to the foot of League One.

The home side, themselves on the receiving end of two early defeats, owed their triumph to an exemplary display from their coach, the former Wales fly-half Paul Turner. Apart from landing a drop goal and five conversions, Turner co-ordinated a five-try romp in which Dylan O'Grady and Mark Appleson, making his league debut after moving from London Scottish, each went over twice.

At the Memorial Ground, indifferent refereeing and an awkward wind made life difficult for Bristol and Harlequins, but the home side won 19-14 despite losing their England scrum-half Kyran Bracken beforehand with a knee injury.

Quins opened with a try from Jason Keyter, and led 11-10 at the interval. But their appalling second-half form, which has already seen them ship 19 points to Sale and 45 to Wasps, was again their undoing. Bristol's points came via the boot of Mark Tainton and a try from their captain Derek Eves, but Bracken's replacement, Mark Newall, ended the game with a wrenched right knee.

In League Two, Waterloo are the clear leaders after their third victory, 22-19 at home to London Irish. Saracens, who also began the day with two wins, went down 17-8 at Wakefield despite a drop goal from their fly-half Andy Lee for the third Saturday in a row. At The Reddings, the former England full-back Simon Hodgkinson contributed 14 points to Moseley's 19-12 victory over his previous club Nottingham.

Cardiff's 100 per cent record in the Heineken League came to an end when they lost 17-13 away to the champions Swansea. Four penalties by Aled Williams and a breakaway try from Simon Davies earned Swansea only their second win of the season. But the All Whites' joy was tempered with the news that their international hooker Robin McBryde is about to join Llanelli.