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).

 



Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing