Despite a good showing from Saints’ future stars, the U18s fell to a strong second half performance from the hosts Sale Sharks in the Premiership Rugby Academies League in the rearranged location of Platt Lane Sports Complex in Manchester.
Less than a minute in and the travelling side get the first points. James Grayson sends a penalty kick through the posts to start the scoring.
The home side come back straight away, however, and earn a penalty of their own. Kieran Wilkinson sent his kick to the posts through too to level things.
Saints had a lineout on the half way and drive the maul forwards into the 22 before sending it out wide to Ollie Sleightholme but the winger got pushed into touch. It was no matter though as the game came back for a Saints penalty and the away side sent a maul over close before the ball came out for Grayson to dive over the whitewash. He converted his own score to take Saints a whole score ahead.
The home side pushed back and worked their way into Saints 22. Quick hands from the home side saw their fly half Wilkinson over for the score. He, too, converted his own score.
Saints begin to apply the pressure to the hosts and Devante Onojaife gets them closer to the line off the back of the scrum only for the referee to award Grayson another shot at the posts which the Saints fly-half duly sent through.
Sale returned Saints pressure and found themselves with a lineout deep within Saints’ 22. The maul did not make it forwards but were awarded another penalty and went for the corner again. This time it was Saints that found themselves with the penalty and Grayson cleared the pressure.
Sale’s number eight, Sam Dugdale got them close to the line before another penalty sent into the corner saw another maul on it’s way to Saints’ tryline. This time the forwards made it close enough for Nic Dolly to scoot over the line for Sale’s second try. Wilkinson’s conversion just slid through the uprights.
Luke Risman ripped the ball from Saints’ hosts to get the away side close to the tryline again. The forwards set up a maul which got Saints close before the backs took over and Joe Green stole past three defenders to score. Grayson converted to give Saints a narrow lead at the break.
Sale looked to attack again from the break and got themselves over but were held up by a frenzied Saints defence. The home side stayed close to Saints’ tryline and eventually got over through Bevan Rodd.
The home side got close to scoring again moments later, Wilkinson driving close, but lost the ball forwards and Saints’ dominance in the scrum relieved the immediate pressure. Freddie Davies broke through Sale’s line and the home side looked dangerous. A penalty kick deep into the corner saw them close with the lineout but desperate defence from Sale kept the future Saints stars out for the meantime.
It was to be pace from Sale’s backs that got the next score, however, as Cameron Redpath broke through Saints’ line within the home side’s half and Arron Reed finished the job with some quick feet.
Saints came back at their hosts though and a driving maul off the back of a lineout and Risman dotted down at the base for his second of the game. Grayson converted to bring the game back within a score.
Despite a strong attack from Saints, Sale regained possession and pushed close to Saints’ line and pushed on to score a fifth try and stretch their lead back to a nine points again.
The home side got over the line in the last minutes of the game through replacement second row, Roubon Birch to end the game with a victory that looks more convincing on paper than it was in person.
SALE – Owen; Reed, Doherty, Redpath, Walsh; Wilkinson, Sturgess; Rodd, Dolly, Weatherby, Murphy, Booth, Papworth, James, Dugdale
Subs – Neild, Blanchard, Granby, Leatherbarrow, Brich, Dunne, Chinomona
SAINTS – Green; Segun, Dingwall, Strachan, Sleightholme; Grayson, Warn, Charalambous, Ma’asi, Painter, Dix, Coles, Davies, Britton, Onojaife
1min SAINTS Pen Grayson 0-3
3mins SALE Pen Wilkinson 3-3
8mins SAINTS Try Grayson Con Grayson 3-10
11mins SALE Try Wilkinson Con Wilkinson 10-10
21mins SAINTS Pen Grayson 10-13
28mins SALE Try Dolly Con Wilkinson 17-13
35+2mins SAINTS Try Green Con Grayson 17-20
HALF TIME Sale 17 Saints 20
39mins SALE Try Rodd Con Wilkinson 24-20
51mins SALE Try Reed Con Wilkinson 31-20
53mins SAINTS Try Risman Con Grayson 31-27
56mins SALE Try Dolly 36-27
68mins SALE Try Birch Con Wilkinson 43-27
FULL TIME Sale 43 Saints 27