Sale 20 Gloucester 19: Wigglesworth exploits Gloucester's wobbles

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The Independent Online

When Gloucester reached their Edgeley Park dressing-room at half-time on Saturday evening, leading 16-3 in what looked likely to be a one-sided affair in the second period, many of their team must have thought they were only a step or two away from a seat on the coach. To hurtle back down the M6 with a hefty win under their belts and to rest easy with their loved ones in the West Country would have brought untold pleasures. Then it all changed.

Ryan Lamb opened Gloucester's account with three penalties - two of them kicked while Juan Fernandez-Lobbe was in the sin bin - and David Blair, chosen at outside-half, pulled one back for Sale, though he and the full-back Daniel Larrechea missed two others. There was still plenty in it, though Gloucester looked more capable.

Dean Ryan's men were alert, sharp, focused and quick, and it came as no surprise that they scored the first try. Mike Tindall passed to Iain Balshaw, who put in a deft chip for James Simpson-Daniel to accelerate past the cover and touch down. Lamb converted. This was just what Gloucester needed, especially as Blair went off injured to be replaced at fly-half by one scrum-half, Ben Foden, and as kicker by another, Richard Wigglesworth.

It took the Sale pack a while to gain the advantage after the break, but when the replacement prop Christian Califano collapsed a maul after a Christian Day line-out drive and was shown a yellow card, Gloucester began to wobble. A Dean Schofield drive was then followed by Sililo Martens taking the ball wide and Wigglesworth produced a lovely pass for the centre Chris Bell to exploit the gap and cross for a try. Wigglesworth converted.

At 16-10 with 15 minutes remaining, the score gave Sale all the encouragement they needed. Lamb extended the visitors' lead to 19-10, his penalty bringing Gloucester's only points of the half, but Sale raised themselves with a crescendo of forward play which blew Gloucester away.

A long series of drives and rucks, initiated by Fernandez-Lobbe, Chris Jones and Magnus Lund, ended with Sébastien Bruno being driven over. Wigglesworth converted to raise real hopes of an escape which had looked highly unlikely 30 minutes earlier.

Gloucester's lack of discipline in the final minutes was tantamount to surrender. The final penalty, struck decisively two minutes from time by Wigglesworth, earned Sale their first victory in four Premiership games, a result which will put them in great hearts for their Heineken Cup visit to Calvisano next weekend.

Sale: Tries Bell , Bruno; Conversions Wigglesworth 2; Penalties Blair, Wiggle-sworth. Gloucester: Try Simpson-Daniel; Conversion Lamb; Penalties Lamb 4.

Sale: D Larrechea (S Martens, 45); J Robinson (capt), M Taylor, C Bell, C Mayor; D Blair (B Foden, 38), R Wigglesworth; L Fauré (E Roberts, 73), A Titterrell (S Bruno, 63), B Stewart (S Turner, 48), C Jones, D Schofield (N Bonner-Evans, 60), J Fernandez Lobbe, S Chabal (C Day, 43), M Lund.

Gloucester: O Morgan; J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, A Allen, I Balshaw; R Lamb (W Walker, 67), R Lawson (P Richards, 53); N Wood (C Califano, 48), M Davies, C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt), A Brown, P Buxton (J Boer, 60), J Forrester, A Hazell (Wood, 55-62).

Referee: W Barnes (London).