Five tries, five points and up to fifth in the table. Not a bad weekend all round.
Sale picked up their first away win of the season in fine fashion Sunday, comprehensively dispatching Bristol 31-13 behind tries from Paolo Odogwu, Mike Haley, Byron McGuigan, Eifon Lewis-Roberts, and Premiership debutant Tom Curry. After weeks of bemoaning the Sharks' historically dire away form, Sale feasted on a struggling Bristol side, for whom even the return of Gavin Henson could not prevent a seventh consecutive league loss.
This was a classic 'banana skin' game - Bristol rooted firmly at the bottom of the league, Sale's confidence low after three (one unlucky, one poor, one valiant) consecutive losses. But the Sharks avoided another humbling loss, putting together arguably their most complete performance of the season to leap back up to 5th in the table (and as it stands are only one point out of a play-off spot).
But despite the team-orientated victory it was Mike Haley, four days after his inclusion in England's squad for the autumn internationals, who stole the show. Incisive throughout, Haley's scything run through the Bristol midfield and around fullback Jordan Williams pushed Sale out to a 12-0 half-time lead and the Lancastrian's fast feet were on display again when a similar jinking run (this time down the left touchline) and the subsequent offload gave Tom Curry the easiest of opportunities to become the Sale's youngester ever try scorer (and the Premiership's fourth-youngest via EspnScrum).
But for as dangerous as Haley was running the ball back from deep, his creative output was matched by that of Sam James despite the latter starting at fly-half for only the second time at the top level. James controlled proceedings on a string and showed both deft composure under pressure and an aggressiveness in taking the ball to the line before spinning it out wide. It was almost Cipriani-esque. No play illustrates James' playmaking nous more than his chip-and-gather over the Bristol defence that culminated moments later in Byron McGuigan crashing over in the corner.
At times both James and Haley were unplayable on Sunday in a pair of performances that auger well for the future of Sale's backline. James and Haley could rapidly form one of the most devastating 10-15 combinations in the league if given enough time. Bristol on Sunday may ultimately serve as their genesis.
Meanwhile, the monster pack finally reared its head in large part due to Eifon Lewis-Roberts and Brian Mujati systematically dismantling their opposite numbers, Cameron Neild is still an absolute workhorse, Paolo Odogwu's meteoric rise continued with another well-taken try to open proceedings, Sam Bedlow joined the aforementioned T.Curry in making his Premiership bow and finally it appeared Byron McGuigan won the raffle to have a crack at kicking sticks this week, the Namibian centre-winger-fullback going two-for-four on attempts after Will Addison did not return from a HIA midway through the first-half. As reassuring as it is to know Sale have yet another utility back capable of taking penalties and conversions, the goalkicking merry-go-round is making me dizzy. Sale need to clearly identify who their primary goalkicker is going to be going forward (is it Addison? James? McGuigan? Me?) and resolve some of the pressing questions in the backline, mainly, where does AJ MacGinty fit into all this?
Honourable mentions: Peter Stringer, Josh Beaumont.
Next up is the return of the Anglo-Welsh Cup after a year-long hiatus, with Sale taking on everybody's favourite club Wasps at the AJ Bell on Friday night. Also, there's apparently a new bloke from Wigan playing.
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