The Taunton boys made the long trip North to the environs of Manchester to take on, for the first time in the club’s history, the men of Sale FC, a long-established rugby club with the likes of former England stars, Steve Smith and Fran Cotton, featuring amongst their former players. In the event it was a more current star in their firmament who proved to be the Titans’ undoing, writes Dick Macey.
The Sale FC outside half is a grey-haired wizard named Chris Johnson who is a legend in North West rugby and now in his mid-thirties, but he brought all his guile to bear for Sale and conjured up a 53-28 victory for the home side leaving the Titans seeming to chase shadows by the time the welcome final whistle blew.
Johnson put the Taunton side under the cosh from the very first minute and by the 15th minute the Titans were 21-7 down, having started woefully slowly and were trying to play catch-up from then on. The Sale man has what appears to be a languid style but that disguises the impeccable timing of his passes, his clever miss-one or two passes and his deft kicking which exposed gaps in the Taunton defence on a number of occasions leaving the swift-running Sale backs the space to run through and exploit the inevitable overlaps and gaps which appeared.
It took fully 30 minutes for the Titans to gain any meaningful ball but as half time approached they scored two tries through Isaac Dalton and Charlie Wright, both converted by Jack Walsh, to add to Harry Tarling’s early converted try. A Johnson penalty goal held the Taunton lads at bay but with the score at half-time 24-21 the reappeared to be a stage well set for what we have seen of late, the Taunton second half recovery.
That proved to be an entirely false hope. Sale went further ahead through another Johnson penalty goal and then the flood gates opened. The home side racked up four tries in seventeen minutes, including a penalty try, as Taunton collapsed a maul, and they were out of sight. The Titans scored a try through Charlie Wright, converted by Walsh, in the dying moments of the game to gain a try-soring bonus point but this was scant consolation for this somewhat bruising defeat. The swift running and slick handling of the Sale backs together with a master class by Chris Johnson had left the Titans licking their wounds. Great entertainment but that rather depended upon which side you were on.