Watching Mitchell learns plenty from Sale's subsidence

Montpellier 33 Sale 18

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The Independent Online

The most famous gum-chewer in Manchester is meant to be Sir Alex Ferguson, known for treating his players to some forthright opinions. But the slightly younger and leaner, though no less abrasive, jaws of John Mitchell were working overtime at the top of the stand in Montpellier.

He just happened to be "on holiday" as Sale, the side the New Zealander coached before and is set to do so again, made the long journey south to try and carry forward the momentum from beating Cardiff last weekend.

Mitchell, sat in the press area, was also happy to talk to all and sundry. No, he had not consulted with Sale's current coach, Bryan Redpath, though all the Sale backroom staff seemed to know he would be there.

"I haven't taken the job yet," said Mitchell explaining why he would not consult, and added: "I'll take a decision by the end of the month." That is just over a week away and it was clear Mitchell was taking the decision, not Sale or Redpath. His "holiday" extended to visiting the Sale dressing room at the end of the game.

The return of the Argentines to their Montpellier duties from the southern hemisphere big four clash was meant to provide a new kick-start to the southern French side's season, marked so far by François Trinh-Duc's inconsistency and captain Fulgence Ouedraogo's injury.

Early feeble defence from another man in the spotlight, Sale's Danny Cipriani, was quickly forgotten as his hooker Joe Ward fed right-wing Tom Brady, who ran 60 yards before setting up his left-wing counterpart Mark Cueto for a third-minute try.

Martin Bustos-Moyano pulled back a penalty just over three minutes later, added a second eight minutes later and the Argentine charge was back on. Offside on their own 22 at the end of the first quarter saw Bustos-Moyano stroke Montpellier into a 9-5 lead before Rob Miller atoned for his conversion miss by cutting the gap back to a point with a well-hit penalty.

Under soaking conditions more reminiscent of north-west England, the Montpellier pack then forced a Sale mistake to give Bustos-Moyano a quartet of penalties.

A second big shove had the all-Argentine Montpellier front row smiling and Sale sliding backwards as the first half ended with a new pattern. An early second-half penalty from Miller prompted another big home shove and a try from Trinh-Duc, converted by Bustos-Moyano.

Montpellier were now running riot as Jim Nagusa stepped outside Mark Jennings, Trinh-Duc put Julien Tomas away, Bustos-Moyano converted both and Sale were down 33-11. But Richie Vernon then bullocked his way over for a try, converted by Miller.

Scorers: Montpellier: Tries Trinh-Duc, Nagusa, Tomas; Conversions Bustos-Moyano(3); Penalties Bustos-Moyano (4). Sale: Try Cueto, Vernon; Con Miller; Pens Miller (2). Montpellier: A Lucas; P Bérard (T Combezou, 40), J Nagusa, S Fernandez, M Bustos-Moyano; F Trinh-Duc (P Bosch, 65), J Tomas (B Paillaugue, 67); J Figallo, A Creevy (V Rassia, 49), B Maximilliano (V Pelo, 64), A Fakaye (R Vernon, 61), T Privat, F Ouedraogo (capt), M Gorgodze (A Bias, 49), J Beattie. Sale: R Miller; T Brady, W Addison, M Jennings (N MacLeod, 71), M Cueto (J Leota, 54) ; D Cipriani, C Willis (J Doyle, 61); E Roberts (R Harrison, 54), J Ward (T Taylor, 43), T Buckley (V Bobilas, 54), F McKenzie, K Myall, J Gaskell, D Seymour (capt), M Easter. Referee: N Patterson (Scotland)