Little helps Sale edge closer to safety zone

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The Independent Online

Sale picked up only their fifth victory of the season to close the gap on Newcastle in their desperate battle to get out of the relegation zone in the Allied Dunbar Premiership One.

The Heywood Road side defeated Harlequins 36-20 after leading 16-13 at the half-way stage. The defeat leaves Harlequins on 15 points, four points behind London Irish and only two clear of Newcastle.

Barrie-Jon Mather got the scoring under way with a try that Nicky Little improved and Steve Diamond and Alex Sanderson were amongst the Sale try scorers as Quins lost for the 11th time this term. Little added two first-half penalties and was the difference between the two sides.

It was Sale's first league win of the year. Quins' international lock Gareth Llewellyn was sin-binned four minutes into the second half and by the time he had returned the home side had added a match winning 20 points, including a try for back-row man Sanderson playing against younger brother Pat.

Cardiff maintained their lead at the top of the Welsh-Scottish League thanks to another handsome contribution from the boot of Wales fly-half Neil Jenkins. The Blue and Blacks, fielding a side of 13 internationals, beat Edinburgh Reivers 51-32 at the Arms Park.

Although there were six Cardiff tries to speak of, it was Jenkins who proved the difference between the two sides - the world record points scorer helped himself to 21 points from six conversions and three penalties. Rob Howley, so long a half-back partner to Jenkins with Wales, was on the mark with a brace of tries, one either side of half-time, while Simon Hill also snatched a couple while there were single efforts for Liam Botham and Jamie Robinson.

Derrick Lee hit back with a couple of tries for the Reivers, but in the end they ran out of ideas and steam as Cardiff made it 13 wins in 16 games.

Glasgow Caley Reds almost threw away victory up the road at Virginia Park where Caerphilly came within a try of upsetting the form book. Glasgow led 15-3 at the break and looked good value for the win at 34-18 going into the final minutes. However, two tries in as many minutes from the left wing Chester Robinson had Glasgow looking over their shoulders. They eventually held on to win 34-30 - only their seventh league win of the campaign.

Newport became the fourth of the top five to win - they had Shane Howarth (20 points) to thank for a 55-20 victory over Bridgend at the Brewery Field.