Charlie Hodgson did in the first half what England would have loved him to do in either half at Twickenham last Sunday – kick goals. Sales Sharks ended the half leading Leeds Tykes 9-3 – three kicks by Hodgson to one by Ross.
Leeds stay perilously close to the relegation zone and may rue the lost bonus point when a last-minute try could so easily have been theirs.
It was a strange match in uncomfortable weather. It opened with every prospect of being exciting as both sides were creative and ended being exciting, but in between there was much that was scrappy. The pouring rain the second half did not help.
Despite the weather there were 7 556 spectators at the ground.
Two early Hodgson penalties gave the Sharks a 6-0 lead. After that the game became scruffy with messy scrums and poor handling.
Tim Stimpson and Ian Balshaw did well for the visitors, Sébastien Chabal and Charlie Hodgson for Sale.
Leeds had a period of splendid attack when a penalty took them close to the Sale line, but stern defence and a penalty against Tom Palmer let the Sharks off the hook. Not long afterwards Phil Christophers made a clean break and when the Sharks lurked off-side in front of their posts Gordon Ross made it 6-3.
Immediately the Sharks struck back. The Tykes made a mess of the kick-off and Hodgson was in position to kick a dropped goal. 9-3.
Play went backwards and forwards in the second half. Bryan Redpath had a sharp break and Ross missed a penalty from a long way out. Chabal had a powerful charge and Jos Baxendell started a fine passing movement. Leeds attacked from a line-out following a penalty but Jason Robinson brought off an effective tackle and Hodgson cleared.
Robinson was nearly away in the second half but Stimpson stopped him with an ankletap.
Hodgson collected a kick and countered. He outstepped two and gave to strong Andrew Sheridan. The prop charged, burst free and scored. Hodgson converted. 16-3 with some 30 minutes still to -play.
Ross missed a penalty from slap in front of the posts but then Hodgson kicked a longer one. 19-3 with 20 minutes left. Hodgson actually missed a kick but it was wide for far out and at an awkward angle to his right.
After this Leeds had their best passage of play with some excellent play by Christophers, Palmer and Balshaw. They were aided in their quest for victory when Sharks' replacement hooker Sébastien Bruno was given a yellow card.
The subsequent penalty gave the Tykes a line-out five metres from the Sharks' line, but the defence held till, while some fighting was happening, Christophers cut through to score. Ross converted. 19-10 with about five minutes left.
Leeds had one last chance to salvage a bonus point when Bell made the running and Christophers cut through, only for his pass to go astray. The final whistle went.
Afterwards the Sharks' coach, former French captain, Philippe Saint-André, was full of praise for Hodgson, saying: "Kicking is all about confidence and Charlie showed tonight that he is very, very strong in his mind. He showed himself to be a world class kicker as well."
Saint-André also said of the match: "It is good to play so badly and win."
A blow for the Sharks and for Scotland could just be the knee injury that forced forceful Jason White off the field.Scorers:
For Sale Sharks:Try: SheridanCon: HodgsonPens: Hodgson 3Drop: Hodgson
For Leeds Tykes:Try: ChristophersCon: RossPen: Ross
Sale Sharks: 15 Jason Robinson, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Jos Baxendell, 12 Robert Todd, 11 Steve Hanley, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Bryan Redpath, 8 Sébastien Chabal, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Jason White, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 Chris Jones, 3 Barry Stewart, 2 Andy Titterrell, 1 Andrew Sheridan, Replacements from: Sébastien Bruno, Stuart Turner, Chris Day, John Carter, Sililo Martens, Mike Hercus, Chris Rhys Jones, Chris Mayor and Johnny Rodham.
Leeds Tykes: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 André Snyman, 13 Phil Christophers, 12 Chris Bell, 11 Tim Stimpson, 10 Gordon Ross, 9 Alan Dickens, 8 Colm Rigney, 7 Richard Parks, 6 Jon Dunbar, 5 Tom Palmer (c), 4 Scott Morgan, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Rob Rawlinson, 1 Gavin Kerr.Replacements: 16 Michael Cusack, 17 Mark Regan, 18 Chris Murphy, 19 Stuart Hooper, 20 Mark McMillan, 21 David Rees, 22 Alix Popham.
Referee: Steve LanderTouch judges: John Pearson, Steve SavageAssessor: Brian Leigh