Sale finally managed to play a complete game over the entire 80 minutes as they swept aside London Welsh 46-8 with a convincing six-try win earlier this afternoon.
1) Can Sale avoid the "banana slip" of two seasons ago?
It was touch and go for a long time, as although Sale held the lead, Welsh were resolute in keeping the game close until finally being undone by four Sale tries in the final 15 minutes. At one point in the second half Welsh even had possession five metres from Sale's tryline with the score at 18-8 in Sale's favour. However Sale's dominance across the pitch came good as they avoided a second humiliating defeat to Welsh, eventually cruising to a bonus point win.
2) Can Sale go a full 80 minutes without losing anyone else to injury?
Alas, no. Dynamic, but oft-injured Outside Centre Will Addison was forced off after 23 minutes with a nasty-looking ankle injury; an especially disconcerting turn of events because it was a freak leg injury that kept Addison out of most of last season. Worth noting that Addison has had both of the last two seasons ended prematurely by injury and it would be incredibly dispiriting if he has to endure another lengthy spell on the treatment table which could possibly lead to serious discussions about the feasability of Addison continuing his rugby career. That is an absolute worst-case scenario however and with some luck Addison will not miss too many of the upcoming games, if any. I am not a physio for Sale Sharks so take this for what it is: conjecture. Also I was informed today that Dan Braid is close to full health and should be back next week so there's some good news.
3) What will the attendance be on Saturday?
4,953 was the figure reported by both Sale's official website and the MEN. >5,000 for a Premiership match is disappointing, make no mistake about it, but considering the relative strength of today's opposition along with their very small fan base in Oxfordshire, a number that small (albeit only a small drop off the Bath attendance) is unfortuantely, to be expected. However it is not games against London Welsh that will determine Sale's financial future. In an ideal world Sale would be pulling in closer to 7,500 for a game like today's but this was always going to be fixture for a smaller crowd. The key will be; can Sale get attendance back up to around 7,000 for the game against Wasps in two weeks' time and will they be able to pack the AJ Bell Stadium for games like Munster/Clermont in the ERC and for the visits of Northampton, Leicester, Saracens etc? We shall see..
Two Final Things:
A shout-out to Matt Ferguson, who helped me identify the last time Sale had a player score a hat-trick in a Premiership:
And another shout-out to Peter Curtis Brown who is supplying Shark Tank Rugby photos from each Sale home game this season for use on the blog.