In an error strewn game at Edgeley Park, Sale’s forwards wrestled control of game away from the Irish, as the Sharks recorded their second Guinness Premiership win of the season. Jason Robinson scored a brilliant early try for the Sharks, but it was fellow England winger Mark Cueto who stole the headlines, going over late in the game to score his seventh try in seven Premiership games – a league record.
Second-half tries from Daniel Larrechea, Sebastien Bruno and Cueto’s late effort, along with 10 points from the boot of Charlie Hodgson, gave the scoreline a glossy look for the home side, but in truth they never really had to break sweat in recording a 29-3 win.
Robinson’s fifth-minute try – his first in the league since January – was a gem. Irish full-back Delon Armitage put in a huge clearance that Larrechea did well to catch inches from the touchline.
The summer signing from Bayonne weighted a deft chip over the top of the Irish defence which he caught on the full before popping inside to Valentin Courrent who in turn fed the supporting Robinson to go in under the posts. Hodgson’s conversion made it 7-0. The game was slow to come to life, with both sides turning the ball over with alarming frequency.
Irish had a brief spell of pressure and were rewarded with a penalty from the boot of fly-half Barry Everitt. However, Sale continued to dominate possession, and really should have scored on the half-hour mark but were denied by brilliant Irish defence around fringes close to their own line.
Sale did force a penalty just before the break which Hodgson slotted, but the half offered little in terms of entertaining rugby. Sale went close early in the second-half when two more of their French contingent, Bruno and Sebastien Chabal, combined at the back of a maul to spin down the blindside and send Chabal away on a trademark bullocking run.
Chabal was hauled down short of the line and once again Sale’s inability to control the ball cost them the score. The Sharks began to pull away in the 47th minute when Hodgson put Mark Taylor into space after a turnover, and the Wales international fed Elvis Sevealai’I who gave the impressive Larrechea an easy run in. Hodgson was unable to convert.
Chabal made the game safe for the home side when he intercepted a pass from substitute Ben Willis to canter under the posts unchallenged from 30 metres. Hodgson made it 22-3.
Just as looked as if Cueto was going to be denied his record, the ball was worked wide to the 25-year-old winger with five minutes left, and as he showed the defence a clean pair of heels, as he has done many times before. Hodgson’s conversion completed the scoring.