Mallinder sets sail to Europe

Sale 33 Leeds 20
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The Independent Online

A sure-fire way of getting a team to play out of their socks is to announce the arrival of a director of rugby who is embarking on a recruitment drive. No sooner had Philippe Saint-André arrived in Manchester than Sale, who have had an indifferent season, were concentrating on winning a substantial prize.

A sure-fire way of getting a team to play out of their socks is to announce the arrival of a director of rugby who is embarking on a recruitment drive. No sooner had Philippe Saint-André arrived in Manchester than Sale, who have had an indifferent season, were concentrating on winning a substantial prize.

Yesterday they reached the final of the Powergen Cup, knocking out Leeds by two goals, two tries, two penalties and a drop-goal to two goals and two penalties, and this afternoon discover whether they will meet Newcastle or Pertemps Bees at Twickenham on 17 April. "This is a massive achievement for us,'' Jim Mallinder, the coach, said. "There's been too much talk off the field and now we can focus on the game.''

Mallinder was the number one here until the owner Brian Kennedy appointed Saint-André, and the reorganisation coincided with Sale twinning with Saracens. Steve Diamond, Mallinder's assistant, has gone to the London club and will shortly be followed by Alex Sanderson and Iain Fullarton.

"Perhaps they like London more than Manchester,'' Mallinder said. "Finance comes into it. They're looking after themselves. We may lose one or two more.'' They will soon be replaced, and if Saint-André does what he did at Gloucester, Edgeley Park will have a pronounced Gallic flavour.

In the meantime, Sale, who yesterday attracted a crowd of 6,752 to the ground they share with Stockport County, can qualify for the Heineken Cup should they win the Powergen. On this form they have every chance. They have an extremely useful pack, in which Sanderson and Fullarton performed as if they had a point to prove, and behind them Graeme Bond, the former Wallaby and, inevitably, Jason Robinson were outstanding.

Then there is the stand-off Mike Hercus, the American Eagle recently converted into a Sale Shark as a replacement for the injured Charlie Hodgson. Hodgson will be back in two weeks' time, which will present Saint-André with a difficult choice for the final.

Although his goal-kicking was hit or miss, Hercus, who had been impressive in disposing of Saracens in the quarter-finals, contributed 13 points and generally looked like a No 10 capable of running the North-West of England, if not the country. His contract expires at the end of the season but Mallinder wants to keep him.

The match was only six minutes old when Hercus, taking a high pass from Matt Cairns, set up Robinson for one of the England full-back's speciality tries, a dazzling 30-yard run to the posts. Eight minutes later Bond and Hercus were instrumental in creating a try for Fullarton, who was lurking on the right wing.

At 12-6 Leeds had led a charmed life. On two isolated visits to enemy territory Gordon Ross kicked penalties while at the other end Hercus missed a couple of straightforward attempts and the conversion of Fullarton's try.

But Sale scored 13 points in the last seven minutes of the half. Hercus kicked a couple of penalties and then produced an 80-yard touch-finder with a helping hand from Matt Cardey, who not only failed to gather the ball but flipped it another 20 yards towards his own line, in the process giving Sale the throw. The three-quarters spun it left, where Cardey was the last line of defence against Steve Hanley, and the Sale left wing brushed the full-back aside.

Sale led 25-6 at the break but lost Bond after 46 minutes when he hurt a shoulder in a tackle, was stretchered off and taken to hospital. He had lost all feeling in his arm, but last night was recovering.

After Cardey kicked possession to Robinson, "Billy Whizz" beat six defenders, going outside, inside, spinning, jinking and side-stepping, and but for a poor pass to Mark Cueto the result would have been one of the tries of this or any other season.

With the wind behind them, Leeds at last began to play with some cohesion and should have scored when Dan Scarbrough, chasing a chip from Ross, lost control of the ball as he dived over the line. The right wing picked up two tries in quick succession, the second brilliantly taken after re-gathering his own grubber kick.

With Hercus's drop-goal coming in the middle of Scarbrough's pair, the score had a new complexion of 28-20, but in injury time Chris Mayor went over for Sale's fourth try.

''I wouldn't mind having a kip and waking up to see if there was a different result,'' Phil Davies, the Leeds coach, said. "We could not build a platform. Sale were by far the better team. It was a rude awakening and shows how far we have to go to where we want to be.Sale had another gear and it was one too many for us.''

Sale 33 Leeds 20
Tries: Robinson, Fullarton, Hanley, Mayor; Tries: Scarbrough 2
Cons: Hercus 2; Cons: Ross 2
Pens: Hercus 2; Pens: Ross 2
Drop: Hercus

Half-time: 25-6 Attendance: 6,752

Sale: J Robinson; M Cueto, J Baxendell, G Bond (C Mayor, 48), S Hanley (V Going, 80); M Hercus, R Wigglesworth; K Yates, M Cairns (A Titterrell, 60), B Stewart (S Turner, 60), I Fullarton (C Day, 80), J White, A Sanderson, C Jones, P Anglesea (capt; D Schofield, 68).

Leeds: M Cardey; D Scarbrough, P Christophers, A Snyman, D Albanese (T Davies, 80); G Ross, A Dickens (C Stuart-Smith, 59); M Shelley, M Regan (M Holt, 68), G Kerr (G Powell, 68), S Hooper, T Palmer (capt; P Murphy, 80), C Rigney, A Popham, D Hyde.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

MAN OF MATCH

Graeme Bond At the heart of everything Sale accomplished and was in great form until he was stretchered off in the 46th minute.

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