Sale 21 Llanelli Scarlets 5: Thomas kicks stuttering Sale past Scarlets

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The Independent Online

Sale's Philippe Saint-André has more than one reason to mourn the loss of Charlie Hodgson to the knee injury which will keep him out for the rest of the season. Hodgson's replacement at outside-half is Daniel Larrechea, who last week in the Guinness Premiership was handed a lesson in goalkicking by Harlequins' Adrian Jarvis. Not until the 77th minute of that match were Sale safe, thanks to Jarvis' successes and Larrechea's misses.

On Saturday at Edgeley Park, Larrechea missed three penalties, a drop at goal and a conversion. At 5-5, coming up to half-time, Sale turned to the centre Lee Thomas, who had played just one game since signing from the Cardiff Blues in the summer. Thomas settled down for his first shot after 37 minutes. Sure enough, it flew between the sticks.

In that first half the Sale scrum-half, Sililo Martens, grabbed a try when the Scarlets prop Iestyn Thomas was in the sin-bin for killing the ball. Sale's prop Stuart Turner was next to go, though, before Iestyn Thomas redeemed himself with a try. Ceiron Thomas missed the conversion and a penalty, which would have tied the scores as the second half began.

Lee Thomas added a second penalty for the home side but the Scarlets were far from out of it. Their director of rugby, Phil Davies, rested Dwayne Peel, Simon Easterby, Mark Jones, Matthew Rees and Stephen Jones before next weekend's Heineken Cup visit of Toulouse to Stradey Park, but how their replacements competed. Gavin Evans tightened up the midfield and Iestyn Thomas and Dafydd Jones put life into the pack.

There was still plenty of life in the Sale backs, however, and they had Jason Robinson. The former England full-back had been quiet, but after setting up Chris Jones for a near miss he was given the ball and went alone. A delightful shimmy sent him through two defenders for a try. Lee Thomas converted from wide on the right touchline, before being made man of the match. It was not more than he deserved.

Sale: Tries Martens, Robinson; Conversion L Thomas; Penalties L Thomas 3 Llanelli Scarlets: Try I Thomas.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); M Cueto, C Mayor (S Hanley, 77), L Thomas, B Foden; D Larrechea, S Martens (R Wigglesworth, 58); E Roberts (B Stewart, 40), A Titterrell (S Bruno, 49), S Turner (Roberts, 66), D Schofield (I Fernandez Lobbe, 54), C Day (C Jones, 40), J M Fernandez Lobbe, M Lund, S Chabal (N Bonner-Evans, 63)

Llanelli Scarlets: B Davies; D James, R King (L Davies, 21), Gavin Evans, Garan Evans; C Thomas, C Stewart-Smith; I Thomas (J Davies, 16-22; Manu, 78), A Gravelle (K Owens, 76), D Manu (J Davies, 54), V Cooper, S MacLeod (A Jones, 54), D Jones, J Bater (capt; G Thomas, 54), N Thomas

Referee: R Debney (Leicestershire).