Among the first callers, if they have not already left the game to spend more time with their families, will be Sale's 6ft 8in duo, Dave Baldwin and John Fowler. By common consent, the Manchester club's prolific line- out operators form the most effective pairing in the English game, yet both have been persistently overlooked by Jack Rowell.
Fowler's first indelible impression was made when he appeared in a winning Hawkes Bay side against the 1993 British Lions and comprehensively cleaned out Scotland's Andy Reed and Damian Cronin. To Bristol's obvious relief, Baldwin was sidelined with a groin injury at Heywood Road yesterday. With Baldwin absent, the England new boy Garath Archer ought to have been able to treat this match as useful catching practice, with Mark Regan the thrower, as it will be at Murrayfield on Saturday week.
Not that it worked particularly well in this League One match for Regan or Archer, where both sides had an eye on a fourth place in the final table, which guarantees them a place in next season's Heineken European Cup.
Sale are not there yet by any means, but they had the edge in all departments except goal kicking. Notably they were also superior at the line-out, where Sale pinched possession five times on Bristol's throw.
Two first-half tries by the Sale No 8 Charles Vyvyan were answered by Mark Tainton with a penalty and a dropped goal. Bristol made a number of speedy breaks but were unable to force their way through the tight opposing defence.
A second Sale try looked on when Chris Yates intercepted on halfway and was just about to touch down when grounded by Ben Breeze. Victory was sealed in injury time with Paul Turner's penalty goal.
Sale: J Mallinder (capt); R Liley, J Baxendell, G Higginbotham, C Yates; P Turner, M Warr; M Ridehalgh, S Diamond, A Yates (N Wheeler, 21), J Fowler, D Erskine, P Hewitt, N Ashurst, C Vyvyan.
Bristol: P Hull (capt); B Breeze, S Martin, K Maggs, G Sharp; M Tainton, K Bracken; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, P Adams, G Archer, R Armstrong, C Barrow, I Dixon.
Referee: D Chapman (Scunthorpe).Reuse content