Gloucester 44 Sale 24: Creative Lamb ends up crocked

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The Independent Online

Gloucester surged into the Premiership top three with a thunderous display of all-round rugby. They shattered Sale.

The home side's fly-half, Ryan Lamb, was the architect of much of it - in the first half anyway - touching down for the first of the tries inside 90 seconds. Within 90 seconds of the start of the second half Gloucester had a try-scoring bonus point in the bag, thanks to their captain, the Italy lock Marco Bortolami.

The pity of it was that Lamb was carried off on a stretcher after suffering an injury to his right ankle shortly before the close of the first half. He was taken to hospital for precautionary X-rays.

He had been involved in much of what Gloucester hit Sale with and by the time he was carried off he had completed a full house of scores, converting the Cherry and Whites' first two tries, kicking a penalty and slotting a drop goal for good measure.

He was not the only man to put in a fine performance, and that was good news for England. Mike Tindall, favourite to start in the centres when England begin the Six Nations against Scotland in the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham next Saturday, was in imperious form. He had a sharpness about him and he looked hungry for the ball - when he wasn't running at the Sale defenders he was looking to put his fellow backs through a hole.

Iain Balshaw looked supercharged at full-back and his try in the 15th minute showed that he has not lost his blistering pace. He went outside a despairing defence to touch down in the right-hand corner.

The Gloucester pack were at their forceful and domineering best, making Sale work hard at the set-piece; they drove accurately and hard whenever the opportunity arose and they were helped at the line-out by some careless throwing and over-complicated calling by Sale.

But the injury-hit defending Premiership champions, who entered this match having lost five games in seven, did not roll over, and when Gloucester allowed them to come back into the match they did so with a vengeance, scoring two second-half tries to add to Been Foden's 21st-minute effort. Sale's Premiership debutant at full-back, Rhys Jones, son of the coach Kingsley, added the conversions and also kicked a penalty.

But Gloucester regrouped and their replacement centre, Olly Morgan, rounded off an emphatic performance with a well-taken try in the last minute of normal time.

Gloucester: I Balshaw; J Bailey, J Adams (O Morgan, 73), M Tindall, J Simpson-Daniel; R Lamb (L Mercier, 40), R Lawson (P Richards, 68); C Califano (N Wood, 54), O Azam (M Davies, 54), C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt; W James, 80), A Brown, P Buxton, A Hazell, A Balding (L Narraway, 80).

Sale: R Jones; C Bell, C Mayor, M Taylor, O Ripol (A Vilk, 44); R Wigglesworth (M Riley, 80), B Foden; E Roberts (B Evans, 76), A Titterrell (S Bruno, 48), B Stewart (S Turner, 44), D Schofield, C Day, C Jones (D Tait, 44), I Fernandez-Lobbe, S Chabal (capt; M Hills, 80).

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).