Rugby Union: Howarth strikes to deepen gloom for Gloucester

Gloucester 24 Sale 34
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THREE INCISIVE interventions in the last six minutes from Shane Howarth elevated Sale and their tiny but vocal band of supporters to the giddy heights of 10th place in Premiership One. Howarth's dropped goal, 45-metre penalty and opportunist try condemned Gloucester to a club record- equalling seventh straight league defeat.

The apparent lack of much to play for did not stop Sale's hooker Phil Greening, who one hesitates to say was back on his old stamping ground, from being sin-binned as early as the fifth minute for some afters at a ruck. Nor did it prevent an accidental clash leaving the Sale lock Dave Baldwin with a bloody gash on the forehead which looked less in need of stitches than a knitting pattern. Gloucester's England hooker Neil McCarthy also succumbed to a nick over the eye.

No holds barred, but plenty of holes. Gloucester's backer Tom Walkinshaw was away grand prix racing at Imola where they deal in somewhat faster reaction times than those displayed here. On several occasions Sale left gaps that Gloucester could have driven a bus through and Mark Mapletoft, restored for the injured Simon Mannix, took advantage.

But Gloucester were guilty, too, of soft tackling, with the golden powder puff going to Richard Ward for his non-effort on Howarth as the Kiwi-cum- Welshman wriggled under the posts to score the fifth try at the end of a madcap first half.

The first try after eight minutes, went to Trevor Woodman courtesy of the prop's unlikely show of speed, but Woodman then reverted to the archetype when he bought a dummy from Richard Smith that took the Sale scrum-half through to the line two minutes later.

Smith had a lively game for Sale on a good day for those with a bit of adventure in their souls. A mid-air steal by Chris Murphy from Gloucester's Dave Sims at a line-out led to a try for Matt Moore then Richard Tombs skipped easily past Howarth and Smith for Gloucester's second try and Mapletoft converted to add to two earlier penalty goals.

The home side are in the midst of a worst ever run of nine league matches without a win. They sensed relief when Mapletoft's penalty after 56 minutes levelled the scores but Howarth finished them off in style.

Gloucester: C Catling; B Johnson, R Tombs, R Greenslade-Jones, T Beim; M Mapletoft, I Sanders; T Woodman, N McCarthy (C Fortey, 4-8, 42-44, 50), P Vickery, R Ward, D Sims (capt, A Eustace, 61), A Hazell, N Carter (R Stott, 65), S Ojomoh.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); B-J Mather, J Baxendell, C Yates, M Moore; S Howarth, R Smith; D Bell, P Greening, D Theron, D Baldwin (A Whittle, 32-40), C Murphy, P Anglesea (D O'Cuinneagain, 50), P Sanderson (S Diamond, 4-14), A Morris.

Referee: S Piercy (Goole)