Jones hat-trick as Sale overwhelm Worcester

Sale 57 Worcester 3
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The Independent Online

It was as well for Worcester that the Edgeley Park electronic scoreboard was on the blink, so that the Warriors could not witness at first hand any confirmation of the damage Sale were doing to them in this eight-try extravaganza, which takes the Sharks back to the top of the Premiership.

Mind you, even if all had been well with the technologically-wayward device, it is questionable if it could have maintained the necessary speed required to keep up with the rate of Sale's scoring. At times they were simply irresistible. For Worcester there was no solace or hiding place.

Sale's director of rugby, Philippe Saint-André, was purring afterwards, as well he should have been. "We showed that when we go forward with quick ball," said the Frenchman, "we are almost unstoppable. It wasn't a flawless performance, and maybe we need a bit more consistency to finish in the top five."

For the moment that is a long way off and, as the season wears on, Worcester might find the going as tough elsewhere. John Brain, Worcester's director of rugby, was suitably chastened. "While they got almost everything right, we got most things wrong." was Brain's damning verdict.

Sale were unable to replicate the explosive opening they made against Saracens last week, when they had two tries on the board within just three minutes; but they were solid from the very first whistle, seeking to break Worcester down by getting their quick men into the wide outside. If it was not clear to Worcester that, against a free-running side such as Sale, the last thing you allow them is space, it soon was. In no time they were paying a heavy price for allowing Sale so much freedom.

It was not long before the Sharks were moving the ball at a pace Worcester were unable to come to terms with. Chris Jones crossed for the opening try. Charlie Hodgson, whose kicking was uncharacteristically fallible a week previously, was immediately on song , converting from just inside the right touchline. Mark Cueto was then adjudged off-side as he thought he scored. But it was only a temporary reprieve. Once Sale regrouped they were merciless as they kept the ball in hand for Cueto to score a legitimate try - his fourth of the campaign - in his favourite corner.

Although Cueto was later replaced, after suffering a leg injury, he had already done enough damage for Worcester's liking. James Brown kicked a 30 metre penalty when Hodgson strayed off-side, but the Sale outside-half countered with a long penalty.

At half-time it was 24-3 as Chris Jones and Magnus Lund brought Sale a bonus point for having scored four tries. There was no way back for Worcester as Sale exerted a stranglehold after the break and the tries kept coming with increasing regularity.

Bryan Redpath claimed touchdown number five, before a typically mesmerising run by the captain, England's Jason Robinson, brought the crowd to their feet in appreciation. Lund and Jones, who completed a wonderful hat-trick, finished the job in style, to confirm Sale's highest Premiership score since 2001.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); M Cueto, C Rhys Jones, R Todd, S Hanley; C Hodgson, B Redpath; A Sheridan, A Titterrell, B Stewart, C Day, J White, C Jones, M Lund, S Chabal. Replacements: S Bruno, S Turner, P Caillet, P Anglesea, R Wigglesworth, M Hercus, J Taumalolo.

Worcester: T Delport; D O'Leary, B Hinshelwood (capt), T Lombard, B Gollings; J Brown, N Cole; T Windo, B Daly, C Noon, T Collier, C Gillies, D Hickey, P Sanderson, B MacLeod-Henderson Replacements: S Sparks, A van Niekerk, N Mason, P Murphy, C Stuart-Smith, D Rasmussen, D Roke.

Referee: W Barnes (Surrey).