Sale's spirit finds an answer to aggression of Leeds

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The Independent Online

They had the Tetley's Bitter Cup on show before the kick-off. In the city which is home to the brewers who sponsor the competition it was a nice touch, especially as Leeds were confident of barrelling their Premiership One visitors out of the fourth round. But there was nothing for the home club to celebrate, and not much more for Sale to crow over, especially as they have been drawn away to Bristol in the fifth round.

They had the Tetley's Bitter Cup on show before the kick-off. In the city which is home to the brewers who sponsor the competition it was a nice touch, especially as Leeds were confident of barrelling their Premiership One visitors out of the fourth round. But there was nothing for the home club to celebrate, and not much more for Sale to crow over, especially as they have been drawn away to Bristol in the fifth round.

If this had been billed as a match to attract more rugby union followers to Headingley - and only a paltry 2,032 turned up on a balmy, almost spring-like afternoon - then the first half fell well short of expectations. What little enterprise there was came from Sale, though they were only rarely able to evade a Leeds defence which has conceded fewer points than any in the Second Division. For this Leeds have to thank Dean Lance, who has been working at their one-to-one tackling.

Not that this is a department in which Sale are lacking. In their two previous Premiership games they have not conceded a try and, whenever Leeds pressed, Sale were able to close them down without too much difficulty. On too many occasions for their own good, however, Leeds mixed rather more aggression with their defensive resolve than the laws allow.

After the first 30 minutes of what had been fairly passionless stuff, Phil Greening and the Leeds full-back Matt Oliver, were sent to the sin-bin for some innocuous fighting. That seemed to be the signal for Leeds to call up some reinforcements from their heavyweight division; or at least what passes for it.

The Leeds forwards then crossed the fine line which separates the inadvisable from the unacceptable, which was the signal for the touch judge, Doug Chapman, to make his entry. Off went Tim Fourie for over-zealous use of his feet. It should have been a red card instead of yellow and the Leeds lock Tom Palmer ought to have gone with him for some wilful stamping. Sale protested, but were unable to make their numerical superiority count, so all they had to show for an arid first half was a solitary penalty goal kicked by Nicky Little.

The entertainment, if that is not to corrupt the word, improved after the break when Oliver compounded his difficulties by spilling a high ball. From the resulting scrum, Peter Angelsea picked up, sold a sweet dummy, and put Andy Blyth across for the only try of the game. Little converted to give Sale the confidence to reveal more of their free-running selves. The freedom was wasted as it brought only another Little penalty, to counter a similar score from Jon Benson after Christian Saverimutto had kicked the ball out of a scrum.

The cup was returned to the vaults at Tetley's offices. Leeds will not see it again this season, nor one suspects will Sale.

Leeds: Penalty Benson. Sale: Try Blyth; Conversion Little; Penalties Little 2.

Leeds: M Oliver; S Middleton (J Feeley, 39), R Blackmore, H O'Hare, C Emmerson; J Benson, M Cawthorn (S Benton, 46); M Shelley (capt), M Luffman (R Rawlinson, 61), C Johnston (A Ozdemir, 61), E Jones (P Rees, h-t), T Palmer, T Fourie, J Ponton, M Swift (L Denham, 61).

Sale: J Mallinder; M Moore, J Baxendell (capt), A Blyth, S Hanley; N Little, C Saverimutto; P Smith (D Bell, 66), P Greening, D Theron, G Manson-Bishop, D Baldwin (N Fletcher, 72), P Angelsea, A Sanderson, J Brand.

Referee: R Goodliffe (Sheffield).

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