Sale 6 Bristol 10: Hill's boot gives Bristol edge to keep leaders at peak

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The Independent Online

Bristol edged a narrow victory against Sale, who paid the price of some unimaginative rugby and the inability to dismantle the Bristol defence even when it looked as if they must score. yesterday. The poor conditions did not help, but Bristol were the apotheosis of determination and deserved their victory in spite of Sale's greater amount of possession.

Sale began in assertive fashion, when Sébastien Chabal was all aggression as he hit a ruck. When David Lemi went on a run he was cut down mercilessly while the Bristol pack was shown no mercy as the Sale forwards went on the rampage. For the first 20 minutes, Sale were more aggressive and threatening, except when Bristol were awarded a penalty and kicked for the corner. But Sale kept the ball alive and won a penalty to clear the danger.

Sale may not be playing well away from home, but at Edgeley Park only Newcastle have beaten them in the Premiership. Having lost to the Falcons on Boxing Day, they were in no mood to let Bristol win here, despite the visitors topping the table.

But Bristol are no mugs when they get into their stride and won a penalty when Sale took down a scrum allowing David Hill to level the scores after Daniel Larrechea had opened the scoring with a penalty after Bristol fell offside.

When Bristol had the ball they never went beyond the half-backs. When Sale won the ball, they invariably mixed it up. Towards the end of the half, Sale nicked Bristol's throw at a line-out, Richard Wrigglesworth booted the ball for the corner, but Bristol, despite being under pressure, allowed the alarm to pass.

The second half was much like the first, though it was soon clear that something had to be done to gain an advantage. As Sale attacked the possession was won and the ball went to Jason Robinson. He dropped for goal but missed. Then, with a penalty won, Sale went for a line-out, but fluffed it.

The tempo of the game was beginning to change. Bristol were obliged to play in their half and only got out when Sebastien Bruno was yellow-carded. That relieved the pressure, if not the tension. But Sale were far from beaten, and when Alex Clarke came adrift from a ruck, Larrechea kicked a penalty.

Sale relaxed and, from an uncontested scrum, Dan Ward-Smith claimed a soft try, which Hill converted.

Larrechea missed with a penalty so Bristol were now in command at 10-6. With injury time approaching, Bristol must have felt that this was their day.

Sale: Penalties Larrechea 2. Bristol: Try Ward-Smith; Conversion Hill; Penalty Hill.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); B Foden, M Taylor, C Bell, C Mayor; D Larrechea, R Wrigglesworth; L Faure (N Bonner-Evans 63), S Bruno (A Titterrell 55), S Turner (B Stewart H-T), D Schofield, C Day, J-M Fernandez-Lobbe, M Lund, S Chabal.

Bristol: C Morgan; R Robinson, S Cox, J Taumalolo, D Lemi; D Hill, B O'Riordan; A Clarke (N Budgett 65), M Regan, D Crompton, R Winters, G Llewellyn (Captain), A To'oala, J El Abd (M Salter 24), D Ward-Smith.

Referee: D Pearson (Morpeth).