Rugby Union: Carling the central force

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Sale. . . . . . .19

Harlequins. . . .20

HARLEQUINS were relieved to escape with a one-point winning margin in this entertaining Courage League First Division match at Heywood Road yesterday. They saw a

20-0 half-time lead whittled away by a Sale team who overcame a disastrous start to finish in style.

Harlequins, two tries up after nine minutes, seemed set for a comfortable ride. It was big boys versus kids, with the Harlequins pack rampant and the back line running with arrogant confidence. Sale, looking overawed by their return to the big time, were lost souls, and it was 12 minutes before they escaped from their own half and then only by inches. Harlequins scored after three minutes when Will Carling sent Darren O'Leary striding over in the corner. Six minutes later a clever pass from Chris Sheasby, an outstanding No 8, forced his way over in the corner.

At this stage Peter Mensah and Carling, having a wonderful time in the centre, constantly threatened, and Carling finally ran powerfully to score at the posts. Paul Challinor, who missed four goal-kicks, was replaced by Kent Bray, who landed a penalty and converted Carling's try.

Sale, however, had grown increasingly confident. Inspired by their player-coach Paul Turner, a box of tricks at fly-half, they were on top in the second half. A smart set-piece saw Turner and Charlie Vyvyan open a gap for Stocks to score, giving Turner an easy goal. Neil Ashurst crashed over in the corner off an inside pass from the right-wing Simon Verbickas, hemmed in on the touchline, too far out for Turner's kick. Three minutes from time, Sale repeated their party piece, but this time Vyvyan went solo, brushing past poor tackling to score at the posts. Turner's goal made it an anxious few minutes for Harlequins, who offered only one serious threat in the second half, when Thompson was held inches from the line.

Anyone tempted in pre-

season forecasts to write off Sale had better think again. Sale, however, will be praying that Turner is always available.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); S Verbickas, G Stocks, J Baxendell, K Young; P Turner, C Saverimutto; A Smith, S Diamond, M Whitcombe, P Baldwin, D O'Grady, D Erskine, N Ashurst, C Vyvyan.

Harlequins: K Bray; D O'Leary, W Carling, P Mensah, G Thompson; P Challinor, R Kitchin; J Leonard, B Moore (capt), M Hobley, A Snow, B Davison, T Coker, M Pepper, C Sheasby.

Referee: EF Morrison (Bristol) .