Rugby Union: Beaten Sale want the points

Richmond 29 Sale 24
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The Independent Online
JOHN MITCHELL, the Sale coach, said he would attempt to claim the two points from this match on an extraordinary and controversial technicality. Mitchell's complaint is that near the end the referee allowed uncontested scrums on safety grounds because Richmond had lost two props.

Mitchell will write to the Rugby Football Union claiming that Stewart Piercy made a mistake. "This is not sour grapes," Mitchell said. "The laws state that teams should have a sufficient number of specialist front- row players on the bench. We were denied an opportunity to have an advantage and perhaps win the match."

Mitchell wants the points or at least a replay. John Kingston, the Richmond coach, thought his Sale counterpart was talking "a load of cobblers".

It transpired that the referee did indeed make a mistake but not one that would support Mitchell's argument. Richmond lost their prop Morris Fitzgerald with a serious shoulder injury in the fourth minute and he was replaced by Gary Powell. The problem arose when Powell left the field with a broken nose in the 66th minute and Richmond had to play the hooker Andy Cuthbert at tight head.

Richmond's request at that stage that, with two hookers in their front row, the scrums should be uncontested, i.e. no pushing to prevent the packs from collapsing, was initially refused by Mr Piercy but he changed his mind in the last few minutes. He allowed uncontested scrums with Sale laying siege to the Richmond line. However, the referee admitted after the match that he was unaware that Fitzgerald had gone off.

Kingston maintains that had the referee realised that Richmond had lost two props instead of one, the scrums would have been uncontested from the moment Powell went off. Mitchell's view was that the laws did not allow uncompetitive scrums; Kingston said it was at the referee's discretion.

Despite two tries from the left-wing Steve Hanley, Sale yesterday made it clear why Mitchell finds it more satisfying coaching the England forwards than the Manchester club. Against a side weakened and disrupted by injuries - including the loss with a torn hamstring of the Wales centre Allan Bateman who will almost certainly miss the match against Ireland on Saturday - Sale blew a 12-3 lead and showed why they are third from the bottom.

Clive Woodward, the England coach, was at the Madejski Stadium to check on the fitness of right wing David Rees. In common with other England threequarters, Rees has been affected by injuries but he should regain his place for England's Five Nations opener against Scotland.

Richmond: Tries Pichot, Clarke, Brown; Conversion Va'a; Penalties Va'a 4. Sale: Tries Hanley 2, Howarth, Mather; Conversions Howarth 2.

Richmond: L Best; N Walne (M Pini, 50), A Bateman (M Dixon, 39), M Deane, S Brown; E Va'a, A Pichot; D McFarland, B Williams, M Fitzgerald (G Powell, 4; A Cuthbert, 66), A Sheridan, C Gillies, B Clarke (capt), L Cabannes, A Vander.

Sale: J Mallinder; D Rees, J Baxendell, B-J Mather (C Yates, 74), S Hanley; S Howarth, K Ellis (R Smith, 74); D Bell, P Greening, D Theron. S Raiwalui, C Murphy, P Anglesea (capt), D O'Cuinneagain, A Sanderson.

Referee: S Piercy (Yorkshire).