Sharks survive but Sheridan pays the price

Sale 27 Cardiff 26
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The Independent Online

A good night for Sale, on the result front at least; a bad one for England. The Sharks sank their teeth into the side beaten only by a penalty shoot-out in last season's Heineken Cup – just, after a try by flanker Robin Sowden-Taylor and a Ben Blair conversion brought the Blues to within a point two minutes from the end of the Pool Five encounter.

But the victory came at the considerable cost of Andrew Sheridan departing with a dislocation to the left shoulder that seems certain to add the prop to the list of casualties Martin Johnson can strike off his red rose roster for the looming autumn internationals.

The Lions loosehead lay screaming "dislocation, dislocation, dislocation" after the shoulder popped out of its socket following a collapsed scrum in the 73rd minute. He required oxygen treatment on the pitch and Kingsley Jones, Sale's director of rugby, said afterwards: "Andrew's still in pain in the dressing room." Asked whether Sheridan had any chance of playing a part in the autumn tests at Twickenham, Jones said: "I would say not – if someone's shoulder has gone back out and come back in again. He's a massive presence for the club and for England. He'll be a big miss."

Sheridan was not the only major presence for his club as Sale hit something of the heights following the trouncing they took with a near second-string side in Toulouse last weekend. James Gaskell, their all-action 19-year-old England Under-20 lock, was "outstanding," as Jones put it. Sisa Koyamaibole, their outhouse of a Fijian No 8, was outstanding, too.

Still, the Sharks started tamely, trailing to two Blair penalties before Charlie Hodgson put their first points on the board with a 24th minute penalty. A long ranger from Leigh Halfpenny briefly restored a six-point gap for the visitors but then Sale hit their straps in the final ten minutes of the first-half, Koyamaibole clambering over from a close-range ruck-.

With Andy Powell in the cooler for a high tackle, Gaskell then burst from the back of a scrum to set up his fellow lock, Dean Schofield, the Sale captain, for another try that Hodgson converted. It had been no flash-in-the-pan run from young Gaskell. Three minutes into the second half, he hared off for a try of his own, Hodgson again adding the extras.

Powell led the fightback, gaining partial redemption with the scoring touch from a driven 5m scrum. Blair landed the conversion and then a penalty, but a Hodgson drop goal furnished the Sharks with the vital eight-point gap. They were to need every one of those, after Sowden-Taylor pounced on a loose line-out throw and Blair dispatched the conversion.

Sale: N MacLeod; M Cueto, A Tuilagi (M Tait, 62), L Thomas, B Cohen; C Hodgson, D Peel; A Sheridan (J Forster, 73), M Jones (N Briggs, 59), E Lewis-Roberts, J Gaskell, D Schofield (capt), C Fearns, D Seymour (L Abrahams, 54), S Koyamaibole (S Cox, 66).

Cardiff Blues: B Blair, L Halfpenny, T Shanklin, J Roberts, T James; S Norton-Knight, R Rees (G Cooper, 71); G Jenkins, G Williams (T Thomas, 58), F Filise, D Jones, S Morgan, S Warburton, R Sowden-Taylor, A Powell (B White, 74).

Referee: C Berdos (France).