Sale heap woe on rudderless Bristol
February 20, 2009
Sale's Sebastien Chabal takes the attack to the Bristol defence
© Getty Images
Bristol head coach Richard Hill's reign looks effectively over after he relinquished control before a hammering that pounded another nail in the club's Guinness Premiership coffin. Hill has been in position at cash-strapped Bristol since 2003 but appears to have thrown in the towel after allowing his assistant, Paul Hull, to take charge for the trip to Sale.
Bristol's woeful campaign hit a new low last week when they surrendered 35-3 at home to fellow strugglers Newcastle and this latest setback edged them a step closer towards National League One. It was their 12th defeat from 14 Premiership outings this season and left them nine points behind second-bottom Worcester, who now have two games in hand on Bristol.
Hill did not travel to Stockport for this game and the highly-rated Hull is now the clear favourite to be appointed as his successor. Bristol led 6-0 after nine minutes courtesy of two penalties from fly-half Adrian Jarvis but Sale responded impressively.
They ran in tries from Eifion Roberts, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Nick MacLeod and Neil Briggs to claim a bonus-point victory that sent them joint top of the Premiership. It was no more than Sale deserved as Charlie Hodgson and Dwayne Peel continually laid the platform for a series of sustained attacks from behind the scrum.
Peel was especially lively and was unlucky not to profit after he charged down a kick from Tom Arscott inside Bristol's 22 in the 11th minute. Sale began to build momentum as the half wore on and Chris Bell, who this week signed a new two-year contract with the club, embarked on a delightful run that drove through the heart of the Bristol ranks before an overambitious pass out wide put paid to the move.
It was indicative of the confidence in the Sale team; Bell and Mathew Tait proving ever-willing runners from the centres and, after Hodgson missed a penalty in the 21st minute, he converted one soon after. Five minutes before the break, Sale claimed the only try of the first half in the scruffiest of fashions as Welsh prop Roberts burrowed his way over the line from close range.
Hodgson landed the conversion and then added a penalty on the stroke of half-time to put Sale in command at 13-6.
The Sharks' domination continued after the break and skipper Lobbe emerged from a thicket of players to touch down in the right corner in the 54th minute. Hodgson added the extras from a difficult angle and then ushered MacLeod over the line five minutes later for Sale's third try. The conversion was added by Hodgson but the discarded England fly-half could not add the extras to a 64th-minute touchdown from replacement hooker Briggs in the left corner after a fine, flowing move.
Further chances came and were spurned by Sale but victory was utterly convincing against a Bristol side who look destined for relegation, and not even a late consolation try from Dan Ward-Smith, converted by Jarvis, could mask that fact.
"We had a good heart-to-heart meeting on Monday between the coaching staff and players and it was decided that I would take training this week," said Hull. "Richard decided not to come up tonight and gave me the reins so I could try to bring in some new ideas. But there is no timescale for a review - Richard is head coach, I am assistant coach and we'll all be back in on Monday morning.
"We have done this for games before in the EDF and in cup games, where I have taken charge and given Richard a break. It has been a tough week but we were pleased with that performance up until half-time. Obviously after the result against Newcastle last Friday we needed to find a response. I don't enjoy losing but I was really pleased with how they responded."
Sale boss Kingsley Jones was pleased with his side's performance as they went joint top of the league but spent the evening fretting a potential upset.
"We are joint top and it's nice to be on 45 points but there are games to be played yet," said Jones. "I hate these sort of games, there's nothing to gain and everything to lose. Bristol had a lot of criticism from every man and his dog after their performance against Newcastle but they have got a lot of pride and showed that."
Sale: Nick Macleod; Chris Bell, Mathew Tait, Rudi Keil, Oriol Ripol; Charlie Hodgson, Dwayne Peel; Lionel Faure, Sebastien Bruno, Eifion Roberts, Sebastien Chabal, Dean Schofield, Chris Jones, Luke Abraham, JM Fernandez Lobbe.
Replacements: Marc Jones, Stuart Turner, Sean Cox, Neil Briggs, Chris Leck, Lee Thomas, Selorm Kuadey.
Bristol: Tom Arscott; Lee Robinson, Neil Brew, Luke Eves, David Lemi; Adrian Jarvis, Shaun Perry; Mark Irish, Scott Linklater, Darren Crompton, Dave Attwood, Nathan Budgett, Alfie To'oala, Joe El Abd, Dan Ward-Smith.
Replacements: David Blaney, Wayne Thompson, Roy Winters, Redford Pennycook, Graeme Beveridge, Ed Barnes, Nathan Brew.