The champagne corks were still strewn around Edgeley Park yesterday, 24 hours on from the promotion party for Paul Ince and his Milton Keynes Dons.
Sale ran in eight tries and racked up a half-century of points on the ground they share with the footballers of Stockport County yet were still left feeling somewhat hungover. "We want Ben," the Sharks fans chorused as Ben Foden produced another swashbuckling full-back performance. Sale would like him too, but the trouble is Ben wants to play at scrum-half and, with Dwayne Peel due to join Richard Wigglesworth on the Sale roster this summer, he has signed for Northampton.
"If he's not a full-back I'll eat my French beret," Philippe Saint-André, Sale's director of rugby, reflected – with justification, after watching his strong-running No 15 plunder a third try in three Guinness Premiership matches. "At full-back for England there is not a lot of competition. I think he deserves to go on tour with England – at full-back." He may do so yet, and even remain at Sale if "rumours" (as Saint-André put it) are correct of a get-out clause in his Northampton contract if Jim Mallinder were to leave Franklin's Gardens to become England's backs coach.
In the meantime, Sale are back up to fifth in the race for the Premiership play-offs places, leapfrogging Leicester with this comfortable bonus-point victory against a side missing Wilkinson, Flood, Tait, Noon and Hayman five days ahead of their European Challenge Cup semi-final at Worcester. It took Sale all of 90 seconds to run in their first try, centre Chris Bell taking a popped pass from Charlie Hodgson and bursting through on the left.
Bell struck again and left wing Selorm Kuadey also got his name on the score-sheet before the Sharks wrapped up the bonus point in the 34th minute, their Argentine captain Ignacio Fernandez-Lobbe feeding his brother, Juan Martin, for a close-range score. The younger Lobbe brother claimed a second try midway through the second half and Will Cliff, Foden and Michael Hills also crossed the whitewash.
For Newcastle, lock Sean Tomes breached the home line just before the interval. As for the Falcons' first-choice stand-off, Jonny Wilkinson is expected to return at Worcester but seems likely to be undergoing shoulder surgery in June rather than touring New Zealand with England.
Sale: Tries Bell 2, Kuadey, JM Fernandez-Lobbe 2, Cliff, Foden, Hills; Conversions Hodgson 2, Thomas 3; Penalty Hodgson. Newcastle: Try Tomes; Conversion Miller; Penalty Miller.
Sale: B Foden; S Kuadey, C Bell (C Mayor, 70), L Thomas, O Ripol (M Cueto, 50); C Hodgson (W Cliff, 59), R Wigglesworth; A Sheridan, N Briggs (S Lawson, 50), E Roberts (B Evans, 63), I Fernandez-Lobbe (capt), B Cockbain, S Cox, M Lund (M Hills, h-t), JM Fernandez-Lobbe (D Schofield, 71).
Newcastle: S Jones; O Phillips, T Dixon, A Dehaty, T Visser; R Miller, L Dickson (M Young, 50); J Golding (J Williams, 57), R Vickers, D Wilson, G Parling, S Tomes, R Beattie, E Williamson, R Winter (capt, T Swinson, h-t).
Referee: W Barnes (England).Reuse content