SALE HOLD ON FOR FIRST WIN IN ELEVEN
By Helen ‘Helzbach’ Davies
After the heartbreak of last week’s draw against Saracens, the Scarlets travel to the AJ Bell Stadium to play Sale Sharks in the final match of this season’s campaign, hoping for a strong finish as the new aim for the season is to make the Pro12 Play-offs.
Sale took an early lead with a well-struck penalty from Outside Half MacGinty to put them 3 points to 0 ahead.
The home team continued their dominating start as they demonstrated excellent ball retention, working through the phases to release Wing Ogogwu who crossed in the corner. MacGinty was wide with the conversion as Sale’s lead increased to 8 points to 0.
Despite poor handling from both teams, Sale were soon back in the Scarlets’ 22 and threatening the Scarlets’ try line. Once again, they came away with points as MacGinty slotted over a simple penalty from in front of the posts….11 points to 0.
The Scarlets finally managed to get play into the Sale 22 and despite 2 easy attempts at 3 points, opted for the corner on both occasions. Unfortunately, shambles at the line-out saw Sale steal and relieve the attacking pressure.
As the match edged towards the half an hour mark, the Scarlets’ woes continued. Gaping gaps in the Scarlets’ defence saw Wing Addison slice through to score in the corner. MacGinty was again unsuccessful with the conversion but still managed to open up a 16 point to 0 lead.
The Scarlets finally managed to get some points on the board as they took the option to kick for the posts rather than the corner. Dan Jones’ continued his kicking prowess from last week to slightly narrow the home team’s lead to 16 points to 3 as the visitors continued to struggle to find any real possession.
Fortunately, when they did they finally managed to string together some phases they made it count as DTH Van de Merwe crossed right at the very end of the half. His grounding under the posts after faking the corner touchdown made the conversion a simple one for Dan Jones as the teams headed for the changing rooms with Sale ahead 16 points to 10.
Despite losing their last 10 games in all competitions, Sale continued their confident performance at the start of the second half and a further penalty from MacGinty put the home team more than one score ahead – 19 points to 10.
However, this margin didn’t last long as Jones added another penalty to keep the Scarlets in the game – 19 points to 13 before MacGinty added yet another to open up the 9-point lead once more – 22 points to 20.
Possibly a turning point in the game came just after the hour mark as the Scarlets’ rolling maul powered towards to the try line. To the delight of the travelling Scarlets supporters who had been in fine voice all afternoon, the referee deemed that the try-saving tackle had come in from the side and awarded the Scarlets a penalty try and the Sharks a yellow card!
This huge decision saw Sale’s lead cut to just 2 points – 22 points to 20.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Scarlets finally took the lead for the first time as Dan Jones held his nerve to make it 5 from 5 and put the visitors ahead by a point – 22 points to 23.
As the seconds ticked away Sale demonstrated their character as they threw everything at the Scarlets, and despite being held up over the try line, they were awarded the penalty. MacGinty, despite missing twice from a similar position, saw his kick sail over the posts to put the Sharks back in the lead once more – 25 points to 23.
Despite throwing everything into the final minutes, the Scarlets were unable to end the Champions Cup on a high as the game ended with Sale holding on to their lead.
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