sale Sharks' record breaking victory over Gloucester was perhaps the best example yet of why rugby's new laws are becoming loathed by supporters across the land. This encounter saw Sale become the first team not to concede a try in four successive Premiership matches and while this worthy record needs to be applauded, Sale director of rugby Phillipe Saint-Andre and opposite number Dean Ryan both raised concerns afterwards about the new ruck law which turned this tie into a glorified kick-a-thon.
The first half was a perverse rugby-tennis hybrid as both sets of backs were too scared to run the ball from their own lines for fear of getting into contact. In the past, players could crash into rucks at will but the new instruction to remain on your feet means possession can be lost much more easily – hence the vast amount of defensive kicking on display. The 6-6 half-time scoreline – a couple of penalties each for Olly Barkley and Luke McAlister – spoke volumes for the lack of attacking ambition from both sides in a dreadful opening 40 minutes.
"I am still very sceptical about these new rules," Saint-Andre said. "I am quite concerned because you just have ping-pong for 80 minutes. At every contact area it is a bit of a gamble at the moment."
The second half improved on the first as Sale proved they can score the tries to compliment their defence. Captain Sébastien Chabal scored a simple try thanks to a great offload from Dwayne Peel soon after the break but a Barkley penalty kept Gloucester in touch.
A Sale penalty from Lee Thomas extended the home side's lead and as the end approached McAlister off loaded to David Doherty after a superb run and he crossed to finish Gloucester off, helped by Thomas' conversion.
"That's the nature of the game now. I thought they were excellent under the current interpretations of the law," Ryan said, straining under the burden of diplomacy. "A lot of those kicks we would have counter attacked under the last season's laws but it is very difficult to do that this season."
Sale: Tries Chabal, Doherty; Penalties McAlister 2, Thomas; Conversions McAlister, Thomas. Gloucester: Penalties Barkley 3.
Sale: Lamont, M Tait, McAlister, Thomas, Doherty, Hodgson, Wigglesworth, Faure, Bruno, Turner, Cox, Cockbain, Ormsby, Abraham, Chabal. Replacements: Briggs, Roberts, Schofield, White, Peel, Bell, Cueto.
Gloucester: Balshaw, Simpson-Daniel, Watkins, Barkley, Vainikolo, Lamb, Lawson, Dickinson, Azam, Young, Bortolami, Brown, Buxton, Hazell, Narraway. Replacements: Titterrell, Wood, Satala, Strokosch, Cooper, Walker, Tindall.
Referee: A Small (London).