Robinson wipes the smile off Andrew's face

Sale 37 Newcastle 11
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The Independent Online

The drawing power of Jason Robinson was amply proved, in more ways than one, as an emphatic, five-try victory kept Sale on top of the Zurich Premiership table. The flying wing danced to his first try of the season after 10 for the Lions on tour in the summer, and helped entice a capacity crowd to homely Heywood Road. Robinson also put the wary Newcastle back division fatally off their stroke as they spectacularly failed to build on last week's opening win over Leicester.

Nowhere are comparisons between the respective Premierships in rugby and football more stark, not to say invidious, than in the borough of Trafford in this corner of Greater Manchester. Sale care not that, even when full, their ground only resembles Manchester United's if you observe Old Trafford down the wrong end of a telescope. Gradual growth is Sale's aim.

Fitting an attendance of 4,800 in may take a battery of shoe-horns but they enjoyed their fun all the same.

Newcastle's misery at a faltering performance of dropped passes and missed chances was compounded when they lost Jonny Wilkinson to a jarred knee at half-time. Clive Woodward, the England manager, was at least here in person to check on his No 10's well-being eight days for the season's first national squad is named, and six weeks before the Grand Slam date in Ireland. Wilkinson suffered the effects of a heavy tackle by Dan Harris in a vain attempt to set up a Newcastle try 14 minutes before the interval. "It's a long season," said Newcastle's coach, Steve Bates, " and we thought it best not to take any chances.

Wilkinson is a complicated character, and he stayed in the dressing room rather than sit on the bench during the second half." He was thus spared the understandable gloating of Sale's public address announcer, who eagerly seized on a pre-match remark by Newcastle's director of rugby, Rob Andrew. Losing to Sale, said Andrew after beating Leicester, would be like England following 5-1 in Munich with a reverse against Albania. "Newcastle 11 Albania 37", purred Sale's man on the mike at the final whistle.

Sale lost three times to Newcastle in League and cup last season but yesterday the roles were rudely reversed. Even with the Italy lock Mark Giacheri and South African hooker Charl Marais yet to play, Sale appeared to have sorted out their front-five problems.

They disrupted Newcastle's line-out, and profited from a fine all-round performance in all phases by the recently-arrived Scot in the second row, Iain Fullarton.

Robinson had a small hand in Sale's first try after 14 minutes, scored at the posts by Charlie Hodgson. And the former rugby league man did not even need to touch the ball to play a significant role in the second. His mere presence in the threequarter line drew Newcastle's outside backs infield, allowing Steve Hanley to bump off David Walder and plunge in at the left corner. Robinson scored himself with a trademark twist and turn through a tumult of would-be tackles early in the second half, then Pete Anglesea bundled through off a scrum for the bonus point. Replacement prop Adam Black finished Newcastle off after a try for the Falcons by Hugh Vyvyan. Andrew will think twice over his attempts at humour in future.

Sale: J Robinson; M Cueto, M Shaw, D Harris, S Hanley (V Going, 75); C Hodgson (J Baxendell, 70), B Redpath (capt, J Bramhall, 75); K Yates, A Titterell (B Jackman, 75), S Turner (A Black, 73), I Fullarton, S Lines, A Perelini (A Sanderson, 31), P Anglesea, S Pinkerton (R Wilks, 75).

Newcastle: D Walder; L Botham (G Maclure, 28-35), J Noon, T May, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson (D Richardson, h-t), G Armstrong; M Ward, M Howe, J Isaacson (I Peel, 50), H Vyvyan, D Weir (S Grimes, 52), J Dunbar (R Arnold, 2-13, 62), P Lam (capt), R Devonshire.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).

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