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Sunday, 26 May, 2002, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Hail the comeback kings
Dan Harris scores the winning try for Sale
Sale hit back with three second-half tries

It all looked so promising for Pontypridd.

At half-time during the Parker Pen Shield final, the Welsh Cup winners were 15-3 ahead.

It had been a remarkable opening 40 minutes of a superb game.

But how quickly it went wrong.


We'll certainly have to regroup after a decent rest early in the week
Sale captain Bryan Redpath

Three quick tries from Sale dented Ponty's hopes and despite a late rally they were unable to create any more than Mefin Davies's sole touchdown.

Mysteriously they also opted to kick for touch late in the second half when referee Alan Lewis awarded a penalty just outside the Sale 22.

Full-Back Brett Davey had been unerringly accurate all afternoon.

But Ponty, in the do-or-die attitude that has won them so many plaudits this season, wanted glory.

The problem was, Sale wanted it too.

The Zurich Premiership runners-up looked ill-at-ease in the opening stages, giving away penalty after penalty, with Davey happy to keep collecting the points.

Ten minutes before the break they were even reduced to 14 men when prop Kevin Yates was sin-binned.

Sale's Mark Cueto jumps with Pontypridd's Richard Johnston
Sale must now prepare for the Zurich Championship semi-final
But far from capitulating, the decision seemed to steady them. They could so easily have folded, instead they held on into the break.

In front of a capacity crowd of 12,000, both Sale and Ponty put on a wonderful display.

After a tense but effectively turgid Heineken Cup final, the onus in Oxford was on getting the ball wide and the crowd was not disappointed.

With England fly-half Charlie Hodgson bossing his midfield superbly, it was perhaps fitting that his shimmy should effectively decide the match.

In front of the Ponty posts he wrong-footed the defence to allow Dan Harris to run over for a crucial third score.

Self-belief

But Ponty should not be too disappointed.

They have developed into a fine team and their final league placing of seventh belies a self-belief that should see them well placed for Heineken Cup qualification next term.

For Sale, however, the season is far from over.

They face a Zurich Championship semi-final against Newcastle next weekend, though captain Bryan Redpath admitted it could be one game too far.

"We'll certainly have to regroup after a decent rest early in the week," he said.

However much time boss Jim Mallinder gives them off, they will certainly have earned it.

And buoyed by the news that halfbacks Redpath and Hodgson have signed new deals with the club, they may yet have to find a cabinet that can fit two trophies instead of one.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sale number eight Pete Anglesea
"This means a lot to me"
Pontypridd captain Paul John
"We couldn't break down Sale's defence"

Heineken Cup final

Matt Dawson

Parker-Pen final

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