Rugby Union: Manfully by Hanley

Bedford 7 Sale 18
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The Independent Online
NO WONDER Bedford's owner Frank Warren has been keen to entertain take-over talks with Cardiff this season. Not only has London Scottish's form improved since their independence was threatened by Bristol, but no sooner were Sale linked with the Welsh rebels than they duly ended a run of seven league defeats at the expense of Warren's side.

In Steve Hanley, Sale possessed a match-winner whose embodiment of both qualities of bulk and power earned him his 11th and 12th tries of a season in which he was a late starter. He might have scored as early as the third minute had a forward pass not denied him a run to the line in an early spell that also saw Shane Howarth miss a penalty.

At the moment, Bedford have all the kicking options of Long John Silver. They turned instead to a policy of running all possession. A break by Rory Underwood set up a period of home pressure in which Dan Harris and Junior Paramore were both held short of the line, but a scuffed dropped- goal attempt from Sam Howard was as close as they came to the scoreboard.

The next time they put shoe to leather they conceded an instant try as Sale recycled a fly-hack out of the Bedford defence. Hanley's 6ft 3in, 16st frame, sprinter's pace and prolific scoring have quickly triggered Jonah Lomu comparisons. And these were in no way diminished when he shovelled aside Underwood with a hand-off and made a clear gallop to the line.

Howarth missed the conversion, but a late hit on Hanley gave the visitors a restart penalty which the Welsh international knocked over from half- way. When Hanley next received the ball, it was at full-tilt from Chris Yates, a try, an improvement by Howarth, and a 15-0 interval lead.

Bedford re-emerged to pin Sale deep in their own territory for most of a scrappy second half that was not helped by some erratic refereeing. They earned their reward with a try on the left for Paramore, converted by Howard, but crucially conceded penalties on two of the few occasions that Sale moved downfield. Howarth missed the first, but made no mistake with the second to see his side home.

Bedford: S Stewart; R Underwood, A Murdoch (capt), D Harris (J Ewens, 60), D O'Mahony; S Howard, R Elliott; A Ozdemir (A Olver, 52), J Richards, C Boyd, A Codling (J Cockle, 14-18, 49), S Murray, R Winters, J Paramore, J Forster.

Sale: J Mallinder; D Rees, J Baxendell, C Yates, S Hanley; S Howarth, K Ellis; D Bell, P Greening, D Theron, S Raiwalui, C Murphy (D Baldwin, 51), P Anglesea (capt), D O'Cuinneagain, A Sanderson.

Referee: T Fisher (Cheshire).