Sale end Rotherham resolve to go fourth

Rotherham 14 Sale 28
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The Independent Online

Sale were made to work very hard indeed at Millmoor last night before they could secure victory against a Rotherham side whose defence, at times, bordered on the heroic.

The Titans had the last word when the replacement flanker, James Cockle, scored a try in stoppage time, and though Sale will be content with the result, they will see this as an opportunity missed, as they failed to cement their superiority with a bonus point. Nevertheless, they move up the table to fourth.

For long periods Sale were far from their best and not until the dying moments of the first half did they look likely to nail down the scores which usually come so readily from their potent back-line. As so often, Rotherham turned over possession, Chris Jones was on hand to scoop up the loose ball and it was swung away to the left for Stuart Pinkerton to break through for a superb try. Braam van Straaten was unable to add the conversion to two earlier penalties, though Sale were able to emphasize their authority with another strong flourish for Van Straaten to kick another penalty, to go in 14-7 up at the break.

Rotherham had their best moments in the first quarter as Sale were struggling to find any cohesion. Van Straaten had already struck before Rotherham mounted their most convincing attack of the game. Nick Walshe's clearance was charged down by Chris Johnson who won the race for the loose ball to score. Jason Strange, who had failed with his first shot at goal, converted.

Having dominated the first half territorially, Sale were soon camped in Rotherham's final third of the pitch, but eking out points was proving difficult. Sale were not helped at half-back where Richard Wigglesworth and Walshe formed an ineffective partnership. But with Bryan Redpath on Scotland duty in Australia, and Charlie Hodgson not recovered fully from his leg injury, Sale were obliged to make the best of a difficult Job.

While the Titans' defence held, there was just an outside chance of an upset. But once Mark Cueto and Graeme Bond touched down for Van Straaten to convert both tries only one result was possible.

Rotherham: Tries Johnson, Cockle; Conversions Strange 2. Sale: Tries Pinkerton, Cueto, Bond; Conversions Van Straaten 2 Penalities Van Straaten 3.

Rotherham: J Benson; A Elliot, P Jorgensen, J Pritchard, D Strettle; J Strange, J Rauluni (M Rhodes, 78); N Lloyd, C Johnson (capt) (P Smyth, 72), S Bunting (J Rawson, 55), G Remnant, G Kenworthy (D Cook, 55), L Greef (R Earnshaw, 72), C Short (J Cockle, 73), G Lewis.

Sale: V Going; M Cueto, B van Straaten (C Mayor, 77), G Bond, S Hanley; N Walshe, R Wigglesworth; K Yates (A Sheridan, 50), M Cairns (A Titterrell, 56), S Turner (B Stewart, 65), I Fullarton, D Schofield, A Sanderson (capt), S Pinkerton (M Lund,76), C Jones.

Referee: R Maybank (Orpington, Kent).