Nigel Melville, the Gloucester coach, joked in his programme notes that his squad was so depleted through international call-ups and injury that he might need to use a few from the stands in the second half.
Jokes and excuses, however, do not win trophies so he, and the Shed, the most vociferous stand of supporters, should be satisfied that a potential banana skin was avoided and a vital bonus point claimed. Not that the Shed would not provide, especially if a rumble was imminent, but with six forwards named on the bench and a decent eight starting, it would be more in the backs, the svelte speedsters, that Melville would need help. Not many of them dwell in the Shed, though.
The hard fact is that Gloucester are now third in the Zurich Premiership - if only for a day, should Northampton Saints defeat Saracens this afternoon. But they will be hard-pressed to maintain a serious challenge with 10 players - 11 when James Simpson-Daniel recovers from his rib injury - away on international duties.
This win, though, was forged on the strength and aggression of the big men. Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman may be on an Italian job but their replacements, Andy Deacon and Rodrigo Roncero, are gnarled yeomen. The locks, Mark Cornwell and Alex Brown, harassed a Sale line-out missing Jason White and Chris Jones, themselves away with Scotland and England, and, of course, the back-row spoilers of Jake Boer, Peter Buxton, Junior Paramore and James Forrester competed ferociously. It certainly worked as they eroded Sale's resistance, although they were helped enormously when Alex Sanderson was sent to the sin-bin in the 34th minute for a cynical foul, blocking Duncan McRae as he chased his own chip-kick.
Immediately Gloucester extended their lead to 14-0 with a carbon copy of their first try in the 12th minute. McRae set up the catch and drive from the penalty and the forwards formed round the catcher, Alex Brown, and rumbled to the line. Boer scored the first, Roncero the second, but they were brutal, efficient and effective team efforts.
Scott Benton did grab a breakaway score for Sale in the 48th minute and Chris Mayor another try late on, but they were merely consolations. A trip on Terry Fanolua resulted in a penalty try in the 51st minute, Paramore barged over in the 73rd for the bonus point and Roncero sprinted 40 metres to the posts in the last minute, an 18-stone wing.
A Simpson-Daniel did get on the pitch but it was Mark, the younger brother of James and a Sale player. Slight, busy, and quick of foot and wit - this could be the start of a dynasty.
Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Foster, T Fanolua, R Todd, J Frape; D McRae, A Page; R Roncero, C Fortey, A Deacon, A Brown, M Cornwell (A Eustace, 60), J Boer (capt), P Buxton (J Forrester, 54), J Paramore (A Hazell, 74).
Sale: V Going; M Cueto, J Baxendell (C Mayor, 66), G Bond, S Hanley; M Hercus, S Benton (M Simpson-Daniel, 67); K Yates (B Stewart, 46), M Cairns (J Roddam, 74), S Turner (A Sheridan, 54), I Fullarton, D Schofield (B Lloyd, 66), A Sanderson (capt), H Perrett, P Davies (A Newton, 74).
Referee: T Spreadbury (Bristol).
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