Chester st XV vs. Sale FC 10-40
2nd December 2017
Photo - Paul Best
This looked a tough home fixture, against a good Sale side on a strong winning run, and so it proved. Defeat put Chester in 10th place in the league and Sale in a strong 3rd place only two points behind leaders Hinckley and Tynedale. Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the game for home supporters was that it marked Sean Green’s 300th appearance for the club, a very fine achievement and one which prompted memories among some spectators of his joining the club as a teenager to play junior rugby.
Early on, both sides managed some good continuity between forwards and backs, despite a slippery ball, but Sale were consistently the more on the front foot and created the more promising opportunities. The Chester defence worked well to keep them out, first resisting a strong Sale lineout drive and then producing a fine last ditch tackle from Freeman Payne under his posts. In quick succession both Sale centres seemed to have had the line at their mercy, only for handling errors under pressure to keep them out. However, it seemed only a matter of time before Sale scored and so it proved. They quickly ran a scrum penalty close to the Chester line and the home defence did not react speedily enough, leading to a converted try wide out on the right. From the restart Chester managed to mount some consistent pressure on the Sale line, but were unable to cross the try line. They were rewarded with a breakdown penalty, successfully kicked by Liam McGovern after 28 minutes, which put them well in touch on the scoreboard. However, four minutes later Sale’s speed of thought re-established their dominance. A quickly taken lineout enabled them to set up a series of rucks deep in the home 22, from the last of which a pick and go allowed their prop to cross for a second converted try.
At the start of the second half Sale immediately set up camp deep in Chester territory. Following a lineout on the home 22 they used a series of rucks to break down the defence. Number 8 Tom Ailes made a strong break before the ball was then moved wide for a third converted try on 43 minutes. In adversity the Chester pack was working very hard, carrying the ball into contact after contact, but found it very hard to break down a well organised Sale defence and get out of their own half. Unfortunately the effort eventually told, when they were pushed of their own scrum ball. The resulting penalty allowed Sale to set up an attacking lineout from which they moved the ball quickly left then right to set up a fine try for their right wing Chris Owen as Chester ran out of defenders.
Although they were now 3-28 adrift and the game was effectively gone, Chester continued to play attacking rugby when the opportunity arose. Almost from the restart scrumhalf Harry Craven intercepted a Sale ball and, following a half break by Tom Foden, a penalty set up a lineout on the Sale 5metre line. The pack then drove the ball over the try line for Kyle Joseph to score a try converted by Liam McGovern.
Unfortunately, Chester were unable to maintain the momentum. First an error following a lineout on their 5 metre line allowed Sale to turn the ball over and a then a deliberate Chester knock on led the referee to award a penalty try. Seizing their advantage, from the restart Sale made a quick break up their left against an understandably tiring defence. A quick recycle in the home 22 enabled them to cross for an unconverted try to make the score 10-40.
Chester showed great doggedness and resiliance, attacking for most of the remaining 10 minutes, in one move through over twenty phases, but lacked quite the ingenuity and dexterity to break down the solid Sale defence.