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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 22:44 GMT
Sale spring cross-code shock
Sale's Jason Robinson takes on the Saints defence
Sale were inspired by former league man Robinson
St Helens 39-41 Sale

Sale struck a blow for rugby union with a surprise victory over Super League champions St Helens in the cross-code challenge at Knowsley Road.

Saints were predictably overrun at the 15-man game and narrowly failed to claw back a 41-0 deficit as the Sharks adapted remarkably well to the league code.

In a way we were a bit boring. It's not normally the way we play but we knew that it would create the most effect for us

Sale coach
Jim Mallinder

St Helens could have snatched a draw but Sean Long missed a last-minute conversion attempt as he struggled to contend with a stiff breeze that meant he was off target with five of seven kicks at goal.

The consolation for the Super League men was a share of gate receipts from the 12,257 crowd, which caused a 15-minute delay and was bettered only twice last summer.

St Helens looked rusty on their return to action after a two-month break and, even at league, their display was characterised by a series of forced passes and fumbles.

The Super League champions were ground into submission in a first half in which the Sharks dominated possession and territory to create space for their wingers to run in three of their seven tries.

A rolling maul in the opening minutes which had the limited Saints forwards back-pedalling 30 yards downfield set the tone for the opening half.

Sale controlled all the set-piece play and frequently turned over what ball the rugby league side were able to muster.

I expected to win because we are more skilful but my pride is not dented - I'm just disappointed we didn't score more points

Saints coach
Ian Millward

Saints declined to take on their visitors at their own game, kicking at first phase, but former League man Jason Robinson lapped up the opportunity to run the ball back at them.

Winger Steve Maden went closest to scoring a try but Saints' attacks were few and far between.

Sale left winger Steve Hanley, who trained with Saints last summer, grabbed two tries while the rest came from right winger Mark Cueto and forwards Phil Davies (2), Dean Schofield and Stuart Turner.

Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth was able to convert just three of the tries but that was enough to secure victory.

In the second half, Saints winger Ade Gardner scored a couple of tries and others came from Maden, Paul Newlove, Chris Joynt and John Kirkpatrick.

St Helens: Albert, Maden, Gleeson, Newlove, Gardner, Martyn, Long, Ward, Wilkin, Jones, Edmondson, Joynt, Kirkpatrick.
Replacements: Bennett, Jonkers, Hooper, Britt, Smith, Maye, Rowlands.

Sale: Robinson, Cueto, Naylor, Harris, Hanley, Baxendell, Wigglesworth, Thorp, Marais, Turner, Schofield, Anglesea, Perelini.
Replacements: Wilks, Davies, Roddham, Arnold, Parr, C. Jones, Deane.

Referee: M. Pearson (Cumbria)

St Helens 39-41 Sale
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