Saracens grateful to have friends in the north

 

Rugby union in the north of England is in rude health – the trouble is that the evidence lies in its best known practitioners playing the game in the south. Draw up a list of players who have deserted the environs of the Pennines and it would be a long one including Saracens' Steve Borthwick, Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Richard Wigglesworth and Charlie Hodgson, who all helped spoil the Sharks' house-warming party with a 23-16 victory in the new stadium shared with Salford rugby league club, then were given leave from the return journey to London to spend the rest of the weekend catching up with family and friends in the area.

A generation ago the north had a succession of England captains in John Spencer (Headingley), Tony Neary (Broughton Park), Roger Uttley (Gosforth), Bill Beaumont (Fylde) and Sale's own Steve Smith. Since then players have gone south in a steady stream in search of trophies, money or a better standard of rugby. It would be different if there was some kind of centrally managed structure with contracts to bind players to their home region.

But in the more or less free-market Premiership, Sale are obliged to compete for signatures, keep working on their now 90-strong academy and hope that youngsters such as their try scorer on Saturday – the 20-year-old wing Will Addison – stick around to build the club. The Premiership has already seen the North's other principal teams Leeds and Newcastle relegated in 2011 and last season.

Hodgson, at least, can hardly be said to have sold his northern soul: the Yorkshire-born England fly-half had a decade with Sale before switching to Saracens. The 31-year-old kicked six penalties out of seven and made the expansive pass to Alex Goode that enabled the full-back to sprint past Danny Cipriani's tackle and send Ashton in for his third try in two matches since joining from Northampton. It was watched by the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, and assistant Andy Farrell – a Cumbrian and Wiganer respectively – but Hodgson is just another player to them now, having recently retired from internationals.

He can concentrate exclusively on adding to Sarries' two opening wins, and their twin aims of winning the Premiership and Heineken Cup.

"I'm delighted for Sale they have moved to a fantastic new stadium, they are close to my heart, and I can't say I am jumping up and down about it to win here," said Hodgson.

"With Saracens there's been a conscious effort to develop the attacking side of things, particularly when we have Chris Ashton involved with us now. His workrate around the field is phenomenal and we need to create opportunities for him."

Sale's line-out cramped Saracens' space and the Sharks' coach, Bryan Redpath, appeared satisfied to have clawed back some respect after the previous week's hammering at Exeter. The club and the region have a lot going for them but currently they are on a different plane to swanky Saracens, who meet Leicester Tigers at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Scorers: Sale: Try Addison; Conversion Cipriani; Penalties Cipriani 3. Saracens: Try Ashton; Penalties Hodgson 6.

Sale R Miller; W Addison, J Leota, S Tuitupou (C Uys 58), M Cueto; D Cipriani, D Peel (W Cliff 72); E Lewis-Roberts (A Dickinson 60), J Ward, V Cobilas (H Thomas 68), R Gray, K Myall, J Gaskell, D Seymour (capt), R Vernon. Saracens A Goode; C Ashton, J Tomkins (O Farrell 48), B Barritt, C Wyles; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth (N de Kock 51); M Vunipola, S Brits (J George 72), P du Plessis (C Nieto 49), S Borthwick (capt), M Botha (A Hargreaves 58), K Brown, W Fraser (J Wray 58), E Joubert. Referee D Pearson (Northumberland).

 



PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee