Rugby Union: Sale sink Brewer

West Hartlepool 21 Sale 36
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The Independent Online
MIKE BREWER was given a taste of what to expect if he leads West Hartlepool back to the First Division by an erratic if ebullient Sale side who want, above all else, to return to Twickenham and atone for their poor display when losing to Leicester in last year's Pilkington Cup Final.

Whether Sale will actually get the opportunity to do so probably depends on them receiving home advantage when the semi-final draw is made, because for much of the game Sale were some way less than convincing.

Brewer's first priority is to see West promoted to the Allied Dunbar Premiership One, where teams like Sale - admittedly nowhere near so effective as they were last season - have to be beaten at Brierton Lane which, in yesterday Tetley's Bitter Cup quarter-final tie, found West lacking the pace and creativity to generate an upset.

For an hour West competed gamely enough and were rarely short of the raw hostility required to embarrass Sale around the fringes. West invariably made the most of their chances, however, and from wherever they came. But the loss of their inspirational scrum-half, Tu Nu'uali'itia, did not help their cause, though the early departure of Ivan Morgan meant that Brewer was on the field for all but eight minutes and the former All Black's tactical nous and direction was evident throughout.

One thing was certain. West were not in the least overawed by their Division One opponents. While Sale were wondering what to expect from West, Emmet Farrell punched a hole big enough to sail a liner through and Nu'uali'itia had cork-screwed over the Sale line for a smart try. Stephen Vile converted and West were in business.

A couple of Vile penalties ensured it stayed that way until Sale at last pieced together a couple of convincing passages of play, both of which brought tries. Jim Mallinder set up the first with a long pass to the unmarked Simon Raiwalui and Tom Beim collected the second courtesy of Shane Howarth's splendid vision.

Simon Mannix converted the second, but Vile answered that score with his third penalty to leave West deservedly in front, if not exactly in command, at 16-12, as the interval was reached.

Despite the stunning simplicity of their two first-half tries, Sale found West inordinately difficult to break down and it was not until the Division Two team began to tire that Sale pulled away, and that after the loss of their England wing David Rees eight minutes into the second half. Jamie Connolly had taken West to 21-12, with a slashing break and try, before Sale began to make the difference in class tellwith tries for Dion O'Cuinneagain, Graham Dawe and the irrepressible Mallinder, all of which were converted by Mannix, who also added a penalty.

West Hartlepool: E Farrell; H Bishop, P Belgian, J Connolly, J Benson; S Vile, T Nu'uani'itia (capt) (P Harvey, 29); S Sparks, A Peacock, P Beal, P Farner, M Giacheri, J Ponton, S Cassidy, I Morgan (M Brewer, 8).

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); D Rees (Baxendale 48), S Howarth, C Yates, T Beim; S Mannix, K Ellis (Smith 78); P Winstanley (Driver, 78), G Dawe (Diamond 64), D Bell, C Murphy (Baldwin), S Raiwalui, D Erskine, P Sanderson (O'Grady, 64), D O'Cuinneagain.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).