Rugby Union: Cheers for De Beer

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Sale 7

London Scottish 23

SALE HAVE offered all manner of excuse for some of their recent defeats. Mostly they have run along the lines that they have played all the brilliant rugby in suffering narrow losses but they are too good and too well equipped to be down among the no-hopers like London Scottish in the basement of the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

The league table can only lie for so long. And Sale are not in a false position. It's just that they have been believing all those flattering them, and proclaiming Sale are better than they are. After this defeat, Sale must wake up to the fact that publicity is among the most false of gods. In a word Sale were awful.

Certainly Sale went about this game with the confidence of a team who would deal with the lowly Scots, before climbing the table to safety. But like so many performances which preceded this one at Heywood Road, Sale stuttered and stumbled like novices against a side who offered very little themselves, but who refuse to acknowledge defeat.

Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of playing important games like this on international weekends, the clubs voted for the arrangement, so they can have no complaints

But it left Scottish without Paul Burnell, who was at Murrayfield, while Simon Holmes, Rob Hunter, Ronnie Eriksson and Iain McAusland were with the Scotland A team which lost 20-8 to Wales A at Myreside on Friday. Add to this the loss of Damien Cummins and Conan Sharman, who were flu victims, together with Guy Easterby, who was on Ireland A duty, and you get some idea of what a weakened side the Exiles sent out at Heywood Road. But Easterby, McAusland and Hunter were on the bench, and two of them got on.

Sale, ostensibly at least, were much more fortunate. Only Dion O' Cuinneagain, and Wales' full-back Shane Howarth were missing from their first-choice line up, and they marked the league debut of their Springbok prop Dawie Theron and Jim Mallinder's 250th first- team game for the club, by inviting the splendidly kilted, Chorley Pipe Band to warm up a sparse crowd. Long before the end of a game of dismally low standard, the Sale supporters were calling for a lament.

Jannie de Beer began and ended Sale's interest in this game with a display of flawless kicking. He started with two first-half penalties, and the conversion of a simple try scored by Tom Davies; moments after the flanker had returned from the sin-bin, where he was sent for stamping. That was it until half-time, with Scottish leading 13-0.

After the break, Sale capitalised on a mistake by Steve Cook, for Barrie- Jon Mather to claim a soft try. But from there, Sale slipped into a coma as Guy Easterby nipped across for a try, and the immaculate De Beer counted Sale out with his second conversion.

Sale: J Mallinder (D Rees, 46); C Yates (Millinder, 71), S Davidson (J Shaw, 16), B J Mather, S Hanley; J Baxendell, R Smith (P Knight, 75); D Bell (P Winstanley, 66), P Greening, D Theron, S Raiwalui (D Baldwin, 75), C Murphy, P Anglesea (capt), A Saderson, A Morris (P Sanderson, 51).

London Scottish: S Binns; K Milligan, R Davies, J Bonney, S Forrest (J Phillip, 78), J de Beer, S Cook (G Easterby, 70); P Johnstone (capt), D Rudham, M MacDonald (C Jonstone, 66), E Jones, M Watson, S Fenn (S Hunter, 43), T Davies, G Bishop (S Fenn 60).

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).