Sale FC grab late draw against Preston Grasshoppers

Hoppers v Sale
Preston Grasshoppers' Garth Dew competes for a line-out as his side have now lost just one of their last six matches.
©Talking Rugby Union

Sale FC and Preston Grasshoppers shared the points in their first game of the New Year in a 22-22 draw at Heywood Road.

A late try from Sale FC’s Chris Mayor tied the game up but fly-half Liam McGovern agonisingly hit the post with his conversion which would have won the game for the hosts.

A strong crowd in Greater Manchester enjoyed an entertaining second half where four tries were scored after Preston led 7-10 at the break.

Hoppers’ Scott Jordan added to his first half score and was joined by Sean Taylor, while Joe Kelly and Mayor grabbed the tries for Sale.

Both sides go away with two points on a day where either team could have moved into the top half of National Two North with a victory.

Jordan scored the opening try  of the match for the visitors after just two minutes before Sale FC’s full-back Thomas Learner latched on to a clever kick by Mayor to level the scores.

Preston then took control of the half and where making a number of clean breaks with ease, but were unable to capitalise on some slack defending by the home side.

The only damage they could was from the tee as Taylor put them back ahead on 14 minutes and from there, Hoppers dominated possession and territory for the rest of the first period.

Sale weren’t allowed to gain a foothold in the match and when Mayor was shown a yellow card for a high tackle six minutes from the interval, the hosts knew they had to begin the second 40 on the front foot.

Instead, they found themselves further behind after the break as Jordan dived over after a magnificent dink to the corner from Taylor before the second-half really sparked into life.

Like in the first period, Sale produced an instant response to a Preston try as Kelly barged his way over from a rolling maul, but it was the Hoppers who pulled away once again.

15 minutes from the end, Sale knocked the ball on in their own 22 in wet and slippery conditions and were punished for that mistake as Taylor timed his run from deep to perfection to go over after being perfectly set-up by Mark Murray.

That seemed to make the win safe for Preston, but the home side were not down an out just yet. McGovern landed a penalty on 75 minutes as he kicked his side within a converted try before Mayor smashed his way over from close range after another rolling maul to level it up at 22-22 with two minutes remaining.

McGovern stepped up to take the conversion to win it for Sale, but his kick drifted to the left and crashed against the post as both sides begin 2016 with a draw.

National Two North

This game at Heywood Road wasn’t the only dramatic clash in National Two North as both the top two sides fell to defeats. League leaders Macclesfield missed out on the chance to extend their advantage at the top as they were beaten 29-24 away at Caldy which sees the Wirral side move within four points of Sedgley Park.

The reason for that is because Sedgley Park were stunned by South Leicester who came away from Park Lane with an outstanding 17-39 victory which moves them up to ninth in the table.

It was a great day for Stourbridge as they are now level on points with Sedgley after a 33-15 win over Sandal while Leicester Lions beat Otley 33-12 and Chester picked up a narrow 12-10 win at home against relegation threatened Broadstreet.

Elsewhere, Tynedale are now seven points clear of the relegation zone after they beat Huddersfield 17-10 at Lockwood Park and Harrogate’s match against the Luctonians was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

National Two South

The table toppers in National Two South were also beaten this weekend as Cambridge suffered only their second defeat of the season as they lost 12-29 at home to Bishops Stortford who also ended Cambridge’s 100 per cent home record.

For the first time in five weeks, we now have a clear leader at the top of this division as the Old Albanian took full advantage of Cambridge’s slip up as they claimed a 21-31 win against the Redingensians. Below the top two, Taunton Titians lost further ground in the title race as they were beaten 20-15 by Barnes.

Elsewhere in the top half, Southend Saxons v Redruth is tomorrow while the Old Elthamians returned to winning ways at they beat Worthing Raiders 19-13 at home.

In the bottom half of the leagye, Dorking began 2016 with a win as they are now up to eighth place after edging out Clifton 31-29 while Bury St Edmunds also started the new year with a home win as they triumphed 20-14 over Chinnor.

Launceston v Canterbury was postponed.

National League Rugby