Rugby Union: Catling daring sinks Sale

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The Independent Online
Gloucester 31

Sale 19

THE CITY CENTRE was strangely quiet yesterday morning; there was no traffic due to an extensive pedestrianisation project. And while events at Kingsholm were anything but pedestrian from start to finish, there was not a lot of Sale traffic to be seen breaching the home precincts.

It was a match to set the pulses pounding. And this victory hauled Gloucester ahead of Sale in the Allied Dunbar Premiership. With England tour places up for grabs there were one or two telling performances, the Sale hooker Steve Diamond was dynamic, so too was Gloucester's Steve Ojomoh, the former Bath and England back-row man frequently exploding through a press of bodies.

There was determined, and at times, desperate defence, and there might even have been a justification for Sale wearing ear-defenders so great was the level of sound, indeed Kingsholm could have been reported to Gloucester's elders for noise pollution.

There was no shortage of incident fron the outset, beginning with Gloucester old boy Tom Beim scuttling over in the corner after five minutes. Sale showed a good deal of spirit but they were not being driven by the fanatical Shed, whose vocal support redefines the phrases "silver tongued" and "golden voiced".

Their exhortations were rewarded as their heroes harried their way upfield and hooker Neil McCarthy wriggled through a maze of bodies to set up Mark Mapletoft with a conversion in front of the posts. That was followed by the moment of the half.

Terry Fanolua, a Samoan who tackles with the force of a tidal wave and is as hard to stop as a runaway train, recently topped a poll by the fanzine Shed 'ead. Fanolua picked up more than 500 of the 3,300 votes cast as the Player of the Season. The noise that greeted his 24th-minute try was understandably intense.

From Richard Tombs' tap back Fanolua caught the ball, ran 30 metres, chipped ahead and then won the chase to touch down. Sale came back well though. Although Mapletoft's conversion of that try had opened up a substantial gap the Cheshire side regrouped and rumbled back. A line-out and a couple of phases later saw Shane Howarth dart through, then convert his try.

The moment of the match, though, arrived early in the second half. Gloucester full-back Chris Catling launched a daring counter-attack from within 10 metres of his line. Philippe Saint-Andre took it over the halfway line and found Fanolua with a pass that looked suspiciously forward. Tombs picked up the pace before lobbing the longest, slowest, highest pass out to his right, allowing wing Brian Johnson to cover 30 metres, gather the ball, then streak over in the corner. Again Mapletoft converted.

There were further exchanges of converted tries from SaintAndre and Dave Erskine, and a disallowed score which would have taken Sale close - Dion O'Cuinneagain's effort being ruled out after Patrick Sanderson was yellow carded for an unspecified offence.

Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton (L Beck, 30); T Windo (capt), N McCarthy (C Fortey, 75), P Vickery, R Fidler, D Sims (M Cornwell, 70), S Ojomoh, S Devereux, N Carter.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); M Moore, J Baxendell, S Davidson, T Beim; S Howarth, K Ellis; P Winstanley, S Diamond, D Bell, D Baldwin, S Raiwalui (C Murphy, 73), P Sanderson, D Erskine (D O'Cuinneagain, 52), D O'Grady.

Referee: A Spreadbury (Bristol).

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