Drahm spoils Sale's party by snatching late draw

Sale 37 Northampton 37
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The Independent Online

They do not have many nights to celebrate in Stockport, but Sale looked as if they would mark their move to a new home at Edgeley Park with a stunning second half that drew the fire from Northampton, who had the better of the first.

To make the evening special, five tries ensured a bonus point - and one for Saints - plus a record Sale home attendance of 8,105. But a try by Bruce Reihana and a penalty by Shane Drahm in the ninth minute of stoppage time earned Northampton a draw they hardly deserved.

In a sparkling Sale move, Graeme Bond missed out Vaughan Going, who had come into the line, but Dan Harris' overhead pass could not be gathered by the unmarked Mark Cueto who seemed certain to score.

Against the run of play, Andrew Blowers took maximum advantage of a wicked bounce, when the ball was moved right and Jon Sleightholme crashed over in the corner. Drahm's conversion was spot on.

Sale's response was immediate as they mounted a series of attacks and Saints did well to restrict them to a solitary penalty which Jos Baxendell banged over, as virtually the whole of Northampton fell offside.

They were all very much onside when Bruce Reihana deceived Cueto in an electric piece of running with a high-speed show of the ball and, when the New Zealander came off his left foot he found Mark Tucker at his shoulder and the centre sped under the crossbar.

With both sides showing an instinctive willingness to run the ball at every opportunity, Sale worked it to Steve Hanley, who raced in for Sale's first try from 40 metres, scattering defenders like skittles. Baxendell was mortified to see his conversion, from wide-out, bounce back off an upright.

From a five-metre scrum the home forwards were drawn offside and Drahm slid over a penalty.

Drahm struck again to bring it to 17-8 as the break beckoned. But, with the last hurrah of the half, Andrew Sheridan was driven across at the posts for Baxendell to convert and make things look far more respectable for the Sharks at 20-15.

Although Baxendell ensured that Sale were right back in it by closing the gap to two points, the Sale defence left a channel as wide as the Manchester Ship Canal for Drahm to stroll across.

From there, Saints sank almost without trace as Hanley scrambled Sale's third try and two touchdowns from the replacement hooker, Matt Cairns, saw the champagne put on ice. But the irrepressible Reihana and the faultless Drahm had the last word.

The edge was taken off Saints pleasure at the draw when Blowers received a nasty facial injury.

Sale: Tries Hanley 2, Sheridan, Cairns 2. Cons Baxendell 3. Pens Baxendell 2. Northampton: Tries Sleightholme, Tucker, Drahm, Reihana. Cons: Drahm 4. Pens: Drahm 3.

Sale: V Going; M Cueto, D Harris (J Hoyle, 52), G Bond, S Hanley; J Baxendell, R Wigglesworth (B Redpath, 52); A Sheridan (K Yates, 52), A Titterrell (M Cairns, 52), B Stewart (S Turner, 64), C Jones, D Schofield, A Sanderson (capt), S Pinkerton, P Davies.

Northampton: N Beal; J Sleightholme (O Ripol, h-t), C Hyndman (J Leslie, 17-26; 54), M Tucker, B Reihana; S Drahm, J Howard (M Robinson, 54); R Peillard (B Sturgess, 11), D Richmond (M Miles, 54), C Budgen (Richmond, 69-77), M Lord (R Hunter, 65), S Williams, M Connors, D Box, A Blowers.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).