Rugby Union: Slick Honiball dwarfs Little

Sale 15 Bristol 40
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The Independent Online
MATT MOORE enjoyed an unusually relaxing sleep on Friday, safe in the knowledge that he would not have to spend yesterday afternoon throwing himself in front of the runaway All Black train called Jonah Lomu.

Having spent the early part of the week having nightmares about how he was going to deal with this particular threat to his manhood, Moore, Sale's right-winger, had only Spencer Brown in his sights; the unconfirmed belief being that Brown is keeping Lomu's place warm until the big man returns from New Zealand to fulfil a two-year contract with Bristol.

Bristol's coach, Bob Dwyer, would not add to the speculation about Lomu's move but said: "Jonah and his agent have said that they have rejected all other offers from English clubs. If he is to play in England, he will play for Bristol."

Moore almost scored a try in the left corner as Sale mounted their only prolonged period of pressure in the first half. By then Bristol had scored the first of their two tries, and Sale were trying desperately to do something meaningful about their woeful defence, the weaknesses in which were exploited to the full by Henry Honiball.

While there was no Lomu to excite a meagre crowd, there were debutants at outside-half for both teams: Honiball for Bristol and Nicky Little for Sale. Of the two, Honiball was by some distance the more assured and, ultimately, more effective. The big South African set up both first-half tries for Jamie Mayer as the notoriously lax Sale defence went walkabout on each occasion. Honiball mesmerised the cover, converted twice and Bristol were good value for their 14-7 interval lead. Little's contribution was to fire two penalties wide of the right upright, which spoiled the good impression he made in general play.

Bristol will not forgive themselves for letting slip a 14-point advantage as they were preparing for the half-time whistle. They suffered a lack of concentration on a similar scale to both Sale's defensive lapses. Sale had not been able to establish a worthwhile field position and maintain it for long enough to put pressure on the Bristol defence. When they did, Craig Turvey skipped through the Bristol cover for a soft touchdown, which Steve Davidson converted.

After the interval Honiball was able to give free rein to his attacking instincts, scoring two tries himself, converting one, plus Jim Brownrigg's touchdown, as Sale were trying to find sufficient sticking plaster to cover over the gaps. Andy Morris got a try for Sale and Davidson a penalty. But when Augustin Pichot raced in from 40 metres for Honiball to convert, Sale were hopelessly adrift, never to recover.

Sale: J Shaw; M Moore, J Baxendell (capt), B-J Mather, S Davidson; N Little, C Turvey (C Saverimutto, 72); D Bell (P Winstanley, 72), P Greening (P Smith, 72), D Theron, M Tinnock (D Baldwin, 57), A Whittle, A Sanderson, A Morris, J Brand (G Manson-Bishop, 56).

Bristol: C McMullen; D Dewdney, E Simone, J Mayer, S Brown (A Cadwallader, 50); H Honiball, A Pichot; A Sharp, B Williams, D Crompton, O Booyse, D Ryan (capt), S Fenn (C Evans, 48), A Vander, J Brownrigg.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).

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