The following week we travelled to Northampton who had just lost out in two Cup competitions, and were determined to do well in front of their own fans at Franklin’s Gardens. We scored early on but the try was ruled out for foul play in the build-up. We trailed at the break but began to edge ever closer to the Saints’ lead but we lost Phil Davies to the Sin Bin for the last ten minutes and we didn’t score again.
We knew our next opponents Wasps were THE form team in the competition as they came to Heywood Road on a ten match unbeaten run and having just qualified for the Parker Pen Cup Final.
The rain started a few hours before kick-off and although we did our best, it was not going to be our day. My England team mate Lawrence Dallaglio had a great game for Wasps and led from the front. Lawrence was involved in everything and hopefully this will continue in the build-up to the World Cup.
Wasps scored the only try of the game through Rob Howley and we just couldn’t break them down. On the one occasion we did break through, the ball slipped from Stuart Pinkerton’s grasp as he attempted to touch down.
It was a weekend of mixed emotions, our home record went after 18 months and it was our last game at Heywood Road. On the plus side, Brian Kennedy announced before the game that we are to move to Stockport County’s football ground at Edgeley Park for next season.
The ground holds nearly 11,000 in comfort and the floodlights, thankfully, are much better than Heywood Road. It’s been hard work playing under those lights this season, goodness knows what it was like to watch a game. The new facilities are just what the club needs and I look forward to playing there next season.
Our last Zurich Premiership game of the season was at Vicarage Road against Saracens who needed to win to confirm their Premiership place for next season and give themselves an outside chance of playing in the Zurich Wildcard for a place in Europe. We needed the win to consolidate third place and give us another crack at Wasps in the Premiership Semi Final.
The Zurich Premiership Final should be a great occasion and I am delighted that former Chief Executive at Sale Sharks, Peter Deakin, has had the man of the match award named after him. Every year the winner will receive the Peter Deakin Commemorative Medal. Peter was a big fan of a Grand Final finish to the season and it is fitting that he is remembered in this way.
The Sharks have had an incredible season once again and when you consider that we have played 12 games out of the 22 without Charlie Hodgson it goes to show what a great job Jim, Steve and the team have done.
The whole Zurich Premiership Season has been very exciting and kept supporters interested right up to Round 22. In fact, going into the last game, only leaders Gloucester were not playing for table position.
The final day of the season was a disaster for the Sharks, we lost at Saracens and could not score a fourth try which would have given us third place in the table and a trip to Wasps.
After the game we reflected on the defeat which was made even worse when we realised Wasps had lost at home to Quins and if we had won at Saracens we would have had home advantage over Wasps, and been 80 minutes away from a Twickenham Final.
Jim Mallinder has signed Braam Van Straaten, Andrew Sheridan and Jason White for next season and I am sure the Sharks will be there or there abouts this time next year.
I’ve got a couple of weeks off now before I hopefully join up with the England Squad for the trip Down Under.