Rugby Union: Johnson lucky not to see red after stamping

Sale 35 Leicester 21
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The Independent Online
THE Premiership is awash with awards. There is one for player of the month, another for try of the month and soon it will be time for rugby's Oscars. Were there an award for the Allied Dunbar Headcase of the Season Dean Ryan was, until comparatively recently, the principal contender but he has cleaned up his act. The Newcastle No 8 is no longer a soft target for sly provocation and is out of the running.

The new and undisputed leader is the Lions and Leicester captain, Martin Johnson. If Johnson suffered from extremely high blood pressure he would be a hospital case. But he so often suffers a rush of blood that he is in danger of becoming a basket case.

Twice recently Johnson was in danger of dismissal. Against Northampton, when Martin Corry was shown red, Johnson was fortunate not to join him. At Heywood Road on Saturday, once Sale had put the match beyond Leicester's reach by going 30-21 up, Johnson's unprovoked reaction was to stamp on the Sale outside-half Jos Baxendell. A red card was the only appropriate response to such witless violence.

But the referee, Brian Campsall, chose to ignore the advice of his touch- judge Geraint Ashton-Jones who had a much clearer view of the incident and said Johnson should go. These days it seems anything goes and, if you are a high-profile England player like Johnson, you can go as far as you like and only expect a yellow card.

Fortunately Johnson's foolishness had no effect on the outcome of a match brimming with good rugby to bring Sale their first cup or league victory over the Tigers.

Leicester led 15-12 at the break, thanks to tries from Eric Miller and Richard Cockerill. Thereafter, like Johnson, the Tigers lost their way as Sale devoured them with two tries by Matt Moore and another by Tom Beim to add to first-half touchdowns by Baxendell and Kevin Ellis.

Sale: Tries Moore 2, Baxendell, Beim, Ellis; Conversions Howarth 2; Penalties Howarth 2. Leicester: Tries Cockerill, Miller; Conversion Stransky; Penalties Stransky 3.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); M Moore, S Howarth, C Yates, T Beim; J Baxendell, K Ellis; P Winstanley, S Diamond, D Bell, D Baldwin, S Raiwalui, D O'Grady, P Angelsea, D O'Cuinneagain.

Leicester: M Horak; A Healey, W Greenwood (L Lloyd, 48), S Potter, C Joiner; J Stransky, J Hamilton; G Rowntree (P Freshwater, 71), R Cockerill (D West, 66), D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F Van Heerden, E Miller (P Gustard, 66), N Back, W Johnson.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).