Rugby Union: Sale's Turner in fine trim

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The Independent Online
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FOR those who have watched Otley stumble ineffectually through their Second Division programme, while Sale glide effortlessly towards promotion, one of the unexplained mysteries of the season is how Otley contrived to beat Sale last October.

Sale's player-coach, Paul Turner, describes it as an aberration, though not one to deflect them from their double ambition of a return to the First Division and an emphatic Pilkington Cup run. 'It was one of those days when we waited for things to happen and by the time we injected any urgency into our play it was all over,' Turner reflected.

There was altogether too much urgency for Otley's liking at Cross Green. Nearly all of it came from Sale, with Turner - 35 next month and playing some of his best football - masterminding the dissection.

The truth is, Otley have only two or three players capable of making an impact at this level and one of them, Simon Tipping, is but a shadow of his former self. Tipping and his back-row colleagues spent an uncomfortable afternoon chasing Turner's shadow as he tormented Otley with sleight of hand and deadly kicking.

Turner's contribution of 18 points was the lustre on a thoroughly convincing team performance which earned Sale a place in the Pilkington quarter-final draw for the first time since 1988, a year when, coincidentally, they failed to win any of their 11 First Division matches.

But Sale have added more steel to their structure recently, to reinforce an impressive defence that has conceded just 68 league points, by a distance the best record in the top four national divisions.

Otley at least managed what only two other teams have done in 12 cup and league matches by scoring a try against Sale. The credit went to Richard Petyt after a strong crossfield burst by Sean Atkinson, Otley's only productive back.

Otley: Try Petyt; Conversion Rutledge. Sale: Tries Warr 2, Young 2, Baxendell, Diamond, Macfarlane, Birt; Conversions Turner 6; Penalty Turner. Drop goal Turner.

Otley: P Rutledge; G Melville (S Henry, 59), J Flint, A Scott, S Atkinson (R Booth, 51); R Petyt, M Farrar; C Baldwin, G Demaine, S Rice, I Carroll, S Wilson, S Tipping (capt), R Midgeley, A Hargreaves.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); S Verbickas, J Baxendell, M Birt, K Young; P Turner, M Warr; M Whitcombe, S Diamond, A Smith, D Baldwin, R McCartney, D Erskine, D O'Grady, A Macfarlane.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).

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