Heywood Road in the leafy suburb of Sale which is a few stops away from the two Old Trafford grounds of Manchester United and Lancashire County Cricket Club and has been home to Sale for a good length of time while the more professionally well known team Sale Sharks now ply their trade in Salford after moving from Stockport at the end of last season.
Sale is a very plush area and full of nice large and no doubt very expensive houses and the Metrolink has a couple of pubs outside and walking back after the match I noticed a collection of people watching the QPR v Manchester United match outside on the telly with a very interesting smell in the air of something being smoked which certainly didn’t seem to be tobacco, Still whatever makes you calm during football.
Today it was Rugby Union and this afternoon was a top of the table clash in League 1 North West with the visitors being Carlisle who are currently in third position before kick off and six points behind Sale who are in turn behind table toppers Liverpool St Helens in what is a competitive league.
Before the match I had a good look at the pitch and it was not the best looking, their was grass on it but also plenty of sand so at times it looked like a lot of kickback would occur which is something that the jockeys who ride at Southwell would be able to teach them a thing or two.
After a quick pre match cup of tea it was onto the game and despite a little snow shower which made no difference as it didn’t stick and promptly vanished the game kicked off by referee Ben Ward who was making his first ever visit to the ground from his base in the Midlands.
The first half was cagey to being with Sale having an early chance after about 6 mins when getting a penalty but full back Scott Redfern sent it wide of the posts from what looked an easy kickable position.
Through most of the first half each team seemed to be copying the other in the way that they made good position before kicking the ball when getting to around thirty meters out to try to advance but the ball was promptly kicked back making the efforts looking futile in the process.
Sale had good possession but the Carlisle tough defence held their line well but it didn’t help with Sam Stelmeszak fluffing his lines when losing his grip on the ball after being passed the ball from out of the scrums.
Eventually and finally the deadlock was broken around the 34 min mark when Sales well paced winger Christian Lillie went over from going around the defence and bursting inside the Carlisle 22 and got the first points which was followed by Scott Redferns conversion then after the visitors missed their second penalty of the day which hit the post it was Sale who went over again when the same try and conversion combination duly obliged infront of the sticks and at half time it was Sale RFC 14-Carlisle 0.
Second half and after the traditional half time ablutions it was back to the match, Carlisle began to attack but lost position which resulted in a fast counter attack from Sale from inside their own half right down to the oppositions 22 but nothing came from it in the end.
After more back and forth attack a big moment occurred when Sale were down to fourteen men when they had Prop Nathan Bailey sent off for head-butting on 55 mins and Carlisle had a way back which finally came to fruition on 65 mins when Barry Earl scored a try after a thirty meter drive which was followed up the conversion to bring the scores to 14-7
Sale sensing something else could happen being down to fourteen men had a try disallowed just a few minutes later when scoring but got compensation straightaway from winning a ball against a Carlisle line out and played out wide for Christian Lillie to get his hat trick of tries but the conversion was missed to make it 19-7
With the time slowly ticking away Carlisle brought it back to 19-12 when Barry Earl scored his second of the day with a try in the right hand corner but the conversion was missed.
The last play of the day came right on full time when Sale got a penalty which was missed by Scott Redfern then the referee blew his whistle and Sale celebrated getting the points albeit only four and not five due to only scoring three tries and Carlisle got a bonus point by losing less than seven.
After this match Sale now go top of the league due to Liverpool St Helens losing at Vale of Lune but LSH stay second.
So a reasonable match with £5 entry and a free programme, Not the classiest game but during the joys of a Six Nations weekend it’s always good to get to a match in the flesh and enjoy live sport in its purest form.
Full time Sale RFC 19 Carlisle 12.