Rugby Union: Irish `suicide' abetted by Kiwi Howarth

London Irish 25 Sale 31
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The Independent Online
WHILE A calmer John Mitchell was yesterday discussing a month of England headaches with his boss, Clive Woodward, a predecessor in the England hierarchy, Dick Best, was working on a mixture of snarl and smile for this week's work at London Irish.

Mitchell could concentrate on his extra-mural duties knowing he had calmed the frayed nerves of some at Heywood Road after just two wins from eight outings. The third at Sunbury was crafted from persistence and the supreme confidence of Shane Howarth.

The Kiwi in the Welsh squad may not be expecting to oust Neil Jenkins as first-choice kicker, but the way he took the decision to kick two long range penalties instead of kicking for position into what was by then a dying wind, late in the second half, took the rashers out of Irish mouths.

That left the home supporters waiting for the feast to materialise. The latest tasty morsel is the All Black half -back pairing of Kevin Putt and Steve Bachop, but their debut was spoiled by Putt being sent to the cooler for 10 minutes in the second half for knocking the ball away after a penalty had been awarded close to the Irish line.

It proved a turning point as the Irish scrum buckled to give a penalty try. The conversion gave Sale the lead and also produced a curious slant to the game. Both sides scored more points playing against the wind than with it, the Irish having gone off at a cracking pace and demonstrating, though patchily, what a potent unit Best is putting together.

It was the "sporting suicide" of giving away over a dozen penalties in the second half which had Best spitting. The rebound against London Scottish next Saturday at his old Stoop home could be savage.

London Irish: Tries Burrows 2, Harvey; Conversions Woods 2; Penalties Woods 2. Sale: Tries O'Cuinneagain, Penalty try, Beim; Conversions Howarth 2; Penalties Howarth 4.

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, N Burrows, B Venter, N Woods; S Bachop, K Putt; M Worsley (N. Hatley, 67), R Kirke, K Fullman, N Harvey, M O'Kelly, J Boer (R. Strudwick, 68), K Dawson, I Feaunati.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); M Moore (D Rees, 69), S Howarth, S Davidson, T Beim; J Baxendall, K Ellis; P Winstanley, S Diamond (P Greening, 61), D Bell, S Raiwalui, D Baldwin (C Murphy, 68), D O'Cuinneagain (S Diamond, 77), P Sanderson, J Machacek (P Angelsea, 20).

Referee: C Reeks (Bath).

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