Rugby Union: Sale in a storm

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The Independent Online
Orrell 22

Sale 19

THE front cover of Orrell's revamped programme depicts their captain, Dewi Morris, handing off a fireball, while walking across a sea of burning oil. Harmless supernatural stuff for a club who put pragmatism some way ahead of the metaphysical.

But on Saturday, the apparently fireproof Morris ran into a thunderbolt. The collision nearly changed the shape of the England scrum-half's face.

Thirty minutes had elapsed at Edge Hall Road, and these had contained enough fluent and entertaining rugby to promise another hour of the same, when Morris was felled at a ruck.

The unseen punch arrived on Morris's jaw with all the venomous intent of the explosive blow inflicted on Paul Ackford by Argentina's prop, Federico Mendez, at Twickenham in 1990. Morris lay motionless for four minutes while the referee, John Pearson, prepared to mete out some punishment. Initially he ordered off outside-half Paul Turner. But, after consultation with his touch-judge, Turner remained.

So did the culprit. Neither Pearson nor either touch-judge could identify the guilty party and Sale continued with a full complement. Morris was transferred to Wigan infirmary with a suspected broken jaw. Well before Morris's senses were unscrambled with the welcoming news that he had suffered only facial bruising, justice, of sorts, was done as Orrell narrowly won.

The home club's video clearly shows the incident, as did the BBC's camera for yesterday's Rugby Special. Sale have closed ranks around the loose-head prop, Paul Smith, claiming he retaliated when Morris stamped on a Sale player.

Remarkably, Orrell maintained their self-control, Simon Langford kicked them to victory and Sale, though they outscored Orrell by three tries to one, were left to reflect on a bleak afternoon.

Orrell: Try Naylor; Conversion Langford; Penalties Langford (5). Sale: Tries O'Grady, Ashurst, Vyvyan; Conversions Turner 2.

Orrell: S Langford; J Naylor, I Wynn, P Johnson, A Healey; G Ainscough, D Morris (capt) (M Farr, 34); P Winstanley, T Redmond, A Rimmer, C Cooper, C Brierley, P Manley, D Cleary, S Bibby.

Sale: J Mallinder; S Verbickas, J Baxendell, G Stocks, M Appleson; P Turner, C Saverimutto; P Smith, S Diamond, A Smith, D Baldwin, D O'Grady, M Kenrick (capt), M Ashurst, C Vyvyan.

Referee: J Pearson (Durham Society).