Robinson ends debut on his toes

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Jason Robinson came, he saw, though not until the final minute of a fractured game, did he look as if he would conquer. Then, latching on to Vaughan Going's swift pass, Robinson's electrifying pace took him clear of what remained of the faltering Coventry cover to raise the loudest cheer of a largely disappointing tie, which takes Sale into the fifth round of the Tetley's Bitter Cup, at home to Rotherham next Sunday.

Jason Robinson came, he saw, though not until the final minute of a fractured game, did he look as if he would conquer. Then, latching on to Vaughan Going's swift pass, Robinson's electrifying pace took him clear of what remained of the faltering Coventry cover to raise the loudest cheer of a largely disappointing tie, which takes Sale into the fifth round of the Tetley's Bitter Cup, at home to Rotherham next Sunday.

This is Robinson's second stab at union. Four years ago he had a spell with Bath which was far from an unqualified success. Though as Robinson said on the day he quit league with Wigan: "Union is a lot faster and more open than when I last played it."

Robinson didn't say as much, though he could have added that union is now so similar to league in many aspects that the two codes are indistinguishable from each other. Not yesterday, however, when Robinson was only infrequently allowed the space to reveal the twinkling running which makes him so elusive. While Robinson was pleased to get his much-hyped Sale debut out of the way, his new coach, Glenn Ross, was not so pleased: "We planned to get the ball into Jason's hands as often as we could, and I'm extremely disappointed that we didn't do so."

In theory, Coventry were there to make up the numbers. They have won only twice this season and are rock bottom in National One, being more concerned with relegation than celebrity; and they are light years away from the club who twice won the Cup in the early Seventies.

Nevertheless, they fronted up well in a bright first half and even had the effrontery to score the opening try. Vunipola made the hard yards for the lock, Robbie Hurrell, to burrow across in the left corner.

Martyn Davies failed with the conversion and a penalty, before adding two penalties, which was sufficient to take Coventry to the interval one point ahead, Sale having disappointed those who expected this to be little more than an exhibition, with Nicky Little converting Matt Moore's try and slotting one penalty from two attempts.

At half-time, Ross blasted his forwards for their laxity, though he presumably did not include the other league debutant, Apollo Perelini, in his criticisms. It was the big Samoan's pass which put Moore across for Sale's opening try.

Coventry were still going strong at the end when Andy Smallwood got their second try. By then they had lost both locks, and this eventually undermined a marvellously committed forward effort which deserved better. They were not helped either when Mel Deane's try was allowed to stand even though Nicky Little's pass to him was yards forward. Steve Davidson got Sale's third touchdown and Little chipped in by converting all three and adding two more penalties.

Sale: Tries Moore, Robinson, Deane, Davidson; Conversions Little 4; Penalties Little 3. Coventry: Tries Hurrell, Smallwood; Penalties Martyn Davies 3.

Sale: S Davidson (V Going, 66); M Moore, J Baxendell (M Shaw, 66), M Deane, J Robinson; N Little, S Hatley; D Bell, B Jackman, A Black, G Manson-Bishop (P Anglesea, 53), A Whittle, S Lines, A Perelini, R Appleyard (capt).

Coventry: Martyn Davies; K Johnstson, Mike Davies, M Curtis, A Smallwood; E Vunipola, A Dawson; M Mika, J Hayter, T Payne, M Tinnock (M Aston, 24); R Hurrell (D Gallagher, 49), M Ellis, R Callaway, L Crofts (capt).

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).

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