ICE HOCKEY: Panthers Pounce On Retro Night

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MANCHESTER STORM  2    NOTTINGHAM PANTHERS 5

 

Sunday was the first of three ‘retro nights’ that the Storm were celebrating over this festive period and they opened it up with the visit of the Nottingham Panthers to the Altrincham Ice rink.  

Manchester fans were hoping that this retro night could help rekindle some of that old magic of yesteryear for this new Storm, however it still couldn’t prevent the Storm slipping to a fourth successive defeat and saw them go to the foot of the Elite League table with a 5-2 loss to Nottingham.

Former Manchester Storm original Alan Hough was special guest, as the player that wore the Storm shirt in the inaugural season back in 1995, saw him being doing the ceremonial puck drop to mark Retro night and also saw the Storm donning the Infamous Black mask shirts from their B&H Cup success back in 1999.

It seemed at first that the nostalgia of retro night was rubbing off on the side after the Storm took the early lead at 2:01 in the game, after a shot by Matt Caria was turned away by Dan Green and had the puck bounce nicely for Grant Toulmin off the boards, and that saw the forward making a nice little backhanded pass towards the front of the net for player-coach Omar Pacha to tuck away for the opener.

The game was feisty at times and that was evident after Paul Phillips shot the puck after the whistle on an offside call and that saw Steven Lee taking exception and with a scrum taking place between the two teams, both players then dropped the gloves and saw Lee getting the better of the short fisticuffs.

At 6.09, the Panthers then tied the game up through returnee to the Lace City in Chris Lawrence, when the Toronto-native carved his way through the home sides defence with ease before slotting it past Zane Kalemba and had the netminder confronting David Ling after the play and another scrum ensued between the sides.

Nottingham then went 2-1 up at 12:25 gone in the period, as sloppy play by the hosts saw Evan Mosey starting an attack for the Panthers, with David Ling taking a pass and finding a perfect pass for Chris Lawrence to launch a one timer into the open side of the net and have the travelling fans back on their feet.

Manchester battled their way back and got it back to 2-2 through Paul Phillips, as his low effort was blocked by team mate Grant Toulmin at front of the net and with Toulmin once again making a nuisance of himself at the net it saw him making another little behind the back pass to Phillips and he swept it home.  

In the Second frame the Panthers scored an early goal that came on a powerplay by David Clarke, as the GB International gave them a 3-2 lead and from that point onwards the game started to get away from the Storm in truth and the Panthers put on a strong performance.

Some slick passing by Nottingham namely by Robert Farmer and Steven Lee ended up with Lee passing it back for Clarke, and he had plenty of time to pick his spot and fired top shelf for the go ahead goal at 23.04.

Bryan Schmidt and Patrik Valcak then exchanged punches instead of Christmas cards at 26:28, with the Manchester man getting the better of the scrap and had both men receiving five minutes for fighting and picking additional penalties for respective Interference and Unsportsmanlike Conduct calls during the event.

More rough stuff came in the shape of local lad Paul Swindlehurst, as the Bolton-born defenceman picked up a penalty behind the play after he pinned Paul Phillips by the boards and saw him being a bit too aggressive for the match official liking and seen him sitting for Interference.

The final period saw the title challenging East Midlands outfit having a mixture of bad luck and good luck mixed into the final twenty minutes of the game, with the Panthers attackers striking the pipework on three separate occasions and saw the Storm’s goal living a charmed life.

Firstly Juraj Kolnik struck the post for the away side, as his wrist shot rang off the metal, then it Logan Macmillian turn to see his effort pinging off the other goal post and away and some may have thought that these chances may be a sign that the home side would come back to haunt the Panthers with these missed chances.

Sadly that was not to be, as Evan Mosey then became the third Nottingham man to hit the pipework and with play predominately in the Storm zone it was only a matter of time before the puck would eventually find twine and it soon did. Some great play and vision by David Clarke saw him playing the puck across goal and had Matthew Myers at the front of the net to turn goal wards as he fell over at 51:00, as he helped the visitors double their advantage with a 4-2 scoreline.

When luck isn’t on your side, you tend to concede goals that don’t normally occur in game and so the fifth goal for Nottingham could be used as an example just for that or put down to a lapse in concentration by the Storm netminder.

Either way it saw Robert Farmer starting the move and finishing it in slightly farcical style, as Farmer shot the puck round the boards and with no danger to speak for the netminder to deal with, his lazy attempt to stop the puck behind his own goals, saw it bounce straight out in front of the net and towards the oncoming Matthew Myers.  

Myers then played it out towards the front of an empty net and to where Farmer managed to control it with his skates before back handing it into an relatively open net for 5-2 and seal the victory for the away side.

A disappointed Manchester Player-Coach Omar Pacha told Storm TV after the game “ I thought we started off really strong and a good opening few minutes, we then got a lucky bounce to get the lead”. “I thought we competed really well in the first two periods and i know were down one, but i still thought we were competing very well and working hard”.

When asked about him in recent weeks wanting 60 minutes from his players, he responded “ Yeah, i thought yesterday we competed hard for 60 minutes and tonight i thought we played for 60 minutes”. “It`s just we’re in a hole, we’re not getting the bounces, we’re playing a good portion of the game and then we are making some mistakes that need to be corrected at this time”.

Manchester never came close to causing any problems at all on Dan Green in the Nottingham goals and saw a very impressive period by Corey Neilson’s men, as they cut the gap down to just three points on the leaders Cardiff and having two games in hand on the South Wales side.

For Storm it was pretty much a game that saw them playing second fiddle for the final two periods again to their opponents and Omar Pacha will be hoping that guys over this Christmas week recover and try to regroup and give their fans some long awaited festive cheer, as they have looked far from the side that started the season off.

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ICE HOCKEY: Crisis Club Phoenix Shows Plenty Of Fight

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MANCHESTER PHOENIX   2 – 1  BRACKNELL BEES

Sunday saw the cash strapped Manchester Phoenix club ending a week of turmoil for the side based out of Deeside, with a gritty hard fought win over another side in the same position as Phoenix in the Bracknell Bees with a 2-1 win.

With off ice issues seeing the club struggling financially and seeing a shareholder selling his shares back to help the club out, it was compounded further on the ice, with an already injury ravaged squad as James Neil and Nico Aaltonen were both forced out on the game for different reasons.

It meant that the Phoenix only iced 10 out skaters compared to Bracknell’s 16 for the contest and made the sight of the two benches looking so one sided that it was hard to believe that the home side would at have less on the bench later in the game.

Manchester though played like a side that didn’t have any troubles on or off the ice at all and brought some early saves for Alex Mettam in the Bees goals seeing a lot of rubber coming at him.  Bracknell as mentioned have been going through their own financial problems as well this season and it saw them getting a couple of opportunities themselves, much like the at other end of the ice it was Steve Fone who on hand to deny them.

Manchester was awarded a powerplay midway through the period after a late slashing minor was called on Matt Foord and from the man advantage it saw Robin Kovar braking the deadlock in the game at 11:36. It saw the Czech forward getting the faintest of tips at the front of the net from a Ben Wood shot to make it 1-0 Phoenix. 

Bracknell then responded early on in the second period through Milan Koustourek goal with  Joshua Smith and Lukas Smital combined to set up the Bees sniper as his effort struck the post and then went in off Fone for the tying goal at 22:13.  Both netminders pulled off a couple of fantastic one on one saves for each side with Mettam stopping Jacob Corson-Heron firstly and then Fone denying James Galazzi soon after.

Phoenix nearly went 2-1 up, as a two on one opportunity went begging for the home side as Kovar’s pass to the back door was just out of reach for his team mate to get too. Both sides seemed to cancel each other out and that led to the scores being level after forty minutes of hockey.

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Difference in Benches : Phoenix Bench (Top)   –   Bracknell Bench (Bottom)

 

As play resumed for the third period, it saw a period full of chippyness between the two sides and a fair few penalties handed out as well. It started off though with Manchester retaking the lead at 43:25 in the contest through a well worked goal by the Phoenix forwards. Michal Satek found James Archer and his little drop pass for the trailing Robin Kovar was dispatched with aplomb as he he let rip with howitzer of a shot to beat Alex Mettam and put the Phoenix 2-1 ahead. 

The question heading into the game was how the home side would fare with such a depleted squad on the bench and having just the 10 out skaters icing for the Phoenix.  That question was one of the main talking points as the game went on and with a one goal lead late on, would they be able to hold out.

It was less than 24 hours previous that the Phoenix faced the Sheffield Steeldogs in the 1st leg of the War of the Roses cup and saw Manchester go from 4-1 up to then crumble and lose out 5-4 to their arch rivals.  It saw tiredness playing a massive part on the Saturday night so would they have any fuel left in the tank for the later part of the game.

IMG_20151213_183611Gareth O’ Flaherty picked up a hooking call with less than five to go in the game for Phoenix and to be fair was unlucky not to be having a powerplay themselves.  With Phoenix down to 9 skaters for short time, it saw a couple of incidents involving the usual suspects in the Bees lineup of James Galazzi and Scott Spearing making some very borderline plays but referee Tom Pering didn’t call them and had the home fans up in arms with a clear trip on one a Phoenix man. 

Bracknell held the Phoenix deep in their zone with the man advantage and saw Tom Pering arm going up once again against Manchester, with Robin Kovar being called for hooking.  Bracknell did momentarily have a five on three power play in their favour, that was till Galazzi pushed his luck a little bit too far and saw him called for cross checks at 56:46 after the play.

With the home fans looking at the clock and biting their nails and praying that Manchester could hold out still on the penalty kill, it made for a tense finish to the game.  With both sides desperately trying to help their cause, it led to some aggro after the whistle and after Satek was given an Interference call, it saw both James Archer from the home side and Scott Spearing from the visitors receiving roughing calls at 57:39 as well as continuing their verbal joust across the penalty boxes.

Kovar returned to the ice to help his side out and it left the Phoenix having just the eight skaters available as time ticked down inside the final minute of the game.  Jan Bendik all but eased worries for the home side as he gave away a clipping penalty 12 seconds from time and saw play stay down in the Bracknell end and to the relief of the home side and fans in attendance, the Phoenix had pulled off a fantastic team effort to claim two big league points.

It saw the home fans leaving North Wales with smiles on their faces after all the worrying news that had come out of the club, but this will give the Phoenix faithful something to cheer for the meantime.

Ice Hockey: Lloyd double has Giants Standing Tall

Manchester Storm   1 – 4  Belfast Giants

 

An outstanding performance by the Belfast Giants saw the Northern Ireland club exacting some revenge on the Manchester Storm this past weekend with a 4-1 road win in Altrincham with Darryl Lloyd netting twice in the win. But a cruel mistake involving Manchester’s netminder Zane Kalemba saw that one error being the turning point in the game.

The start of the game saw Manchester having lots of puck possession and building some good early pressure on the their opponents as chances came at a premium. Matt Sisca had the best opportunity for the home side as the Giants goalie Stephen Murphy came up trumps for the visitors making an important save to deny the Canadian forward.

Belfast battle their way into the game after a bit of a slow start by the Giants and soon saw them getting some decent chances after a difficult opening to the match. With Manchester getting into a bit of penalty trouble, it gave the Giants a bit of an advantage and began to see them starting to dictate the play in their favour.

Belfast suffered a huge blow then, when Derrick Walser blast from the blue line went straight at the leg of Kris Beech and saw the Canadian forward went down faster than a sack of potatoes, as the player was clearly in some distress and was helped off to the locker room. It seemed a goal would come sooner rather than later for the Giants after their two previous power plays provided no goals. 

But with a squad as talented as the Giants have at their disposal, it was clear with penalties coming against Manchester that it would eventually catch up with them and eventually a goal did come their way.

Play between Mike Wilson and Chris Higgins drew the home sides defence out of position and that allowed Darryl Lloyd to easily skate into the gap and just simply tap home at 13:55 to give Belfast a deserved lead on the balance of play.

Things carried on very much the same in the opening stages of the second, with the Giants in full control of the game and had the Storm pinned back in their own zone for the early part of the period.

Manchester defended very well in truth and had the visitors finding it very hard to get past the home team defences. Then in almost a similar vein to the first period, the Storm levelled the game when under the cosh as Matt Sisca put the puck high into the Giants net after a quick break saw Grant Toulmin finding his team mate to make it a 1-1 game while short-handed at 27:36.

IMG_20151212_184122That goal saw the roof nearly come of the rink and had the home town crowd boosted by the goal and more importantly the home bench as well. However disaster struck 15 seconds later though, as a Jeff Mason throw on net was slightly deflected by Giants captain Adam Keefe and the goalie for the Storm in Zane Kalemba, made a huge error after it looked like he had caught it in the glove but instead the puck had evaded him and went under it and crossed the goal line to restore Belfast’s lead and prove to be the turning point in the match.

Manchester simply never recovered from that bizarre goal going in and it saw the goal being the defining knockout blow in the game for the Storm, with the game and atmosphere going flatter than a pancake.    

Belfast had lost 3-1 only a couple of weeks ago to their hosts at the SSE Arena in Belfast and now this was their chance to exact their revenge with clinical passing and a terrific team performance that even Giants coach Derrick Walser must have been proud off. 

A couple of of penalties came against the Storm and left them frustrated by the whole situation, as Belfast taught the new boys to the Elite this year a really harsh lesson. Chances became rare for the hosts and when they did fall to them they failed to make the most of them and left fans in the stands equally frustrated with their teams inability to shoot.

Giants then made it 3-1 late on in the period, if not having a touch of good fortune about it as well at 39.33.  It all came from a bit of a chaotic passage of play, as After Adam Keefe lost his stick battling for the puck just inside the Storm zone, it saw Patrik Valcak and Omar Pacha nearly colliding into one another and had the puck ricochet off Keefe’s loose stick into the path of Darryl Lloyd and he put it home unchallenged to extend their lead and score his second of the game.

Manchester were just simply outplayed throughout by the Giants, as they were by far superior to their opponent and put in one of the best visiting team displays witnessed at Altrincham. Their collective efforts were rewarded with a fourth goal through Brendan Benedict at 46:09, as he found himself in acres of space and blasted one over the shoulder of Zane Kalemba. 

Belfast had controlled the game for the majority of it and then saw them having small lapse in concentration towards the back end of the game, with the hosts having a couple of good chances that were squandered yet again by the Storm. 

After the game Storm coach Omar Pacha said about the loss “It was a tough one tonight, I thought we came out strong at the start and then got into a bit of penalty trouble and went down one. Second we had a bad opening five minutes, but we played alright, not great but we had go back to basic”. 

“At 2-1 down I feel we were forcing the game a bit too much in the second. Then In the third I felt we were lacking some jump and that was that game.”

The defeat brought a disappointing end to their recent two victories on the bounce over Belfast and Coventry, with the loss leaving the side three points ahead of bottom placed team the Coventry Blaze, but the West Midlands side still having five games in hand over their opponents. 

 

ICE HOCKEY: Storm Hold Out To Douse The Blaze

             

MANCHESTER STORM   2  

      COVENTRY BLAZE    1               

 

Manchester Storm made it 3 wins in 4 matches with a hard fought victory over basement club the Coventry Blaze on Sunday Night, as the Storm stretched their winning streak over the West Midlands side to five in a row this season in the their 2-1 victory at Altrincham.

Coventry who had a brilliant result the night before at home to the Sheffield Steelers, saw them travel up the M6 North high on confidence prior to this battle of the two bottom sides in the Elite League.  From the puck drop it certainly shown in the early part of the game that Coventry were still on a high as they were out of the blocks quicker than their opponents.

Manchester unlike their visitors had the night off and so this was their only game of the weekend and knew it was important to get the win and  hold off Coventry underneath them.

The Blaze tried to create chances but they just weren’t able to find any success as netminder Zane Kalemba made some important stops alongside his side new defensive approach, with only four defenceman in their line up for Manchester.

Brian Stewart between the pipes for the Blaze had a stunning first period personally, and single handedly kept the Storm’s forwards in check and didn’t allow any shots to beat him for the majority of the first.  Coventry who had looked like breaking the deadlock early on in the game, were now on the back foot with the home side beginning to take control of the game and saw the visitors getting into penalty trouble.

Manchester who had started the season with the one of the best powerplay units in the league, but of late that disappeared and failed to make the most off their man advantage.  On a couple of the penalties the Storm had taken over a minute to just get their powerplay unit sorted and when they did have chances it seen Stewart on form to deny them, as he faced 20 shots in the period.

With the home side huffing and puffing at the Blaze door, it finally saw their resistance broken at 17:38 though Vinny Scarsella. Some good work by Captain Matty Davies saw him battling for the loose puck and when Patrik Valcak who followed close behind picked it up, he made a nice pass to the back door to where Scarsella just push it on goal for a deserved lead.

Some of the rough stuff then came out in the second period, as firstly a tussle at the front of the away side net led to Matt Paton of Manchester and the huge Boris Valabik of Coventry having a little shoving match before Valabik then wanted to swapped shirts with his opponent and so collected him an extra two minutes  in the penalty box for roughing.

Canadian forward Matt Caria then got thrown out of the game for a two handed slash on Carl Lauzon ankle, with the Coventry man trying to skate to the bench but fell to the ice and after the forceful slash referee Tom Darnell immediately saw Caria’s night come to an end and put the Blaze on a five minute powerplay at 29:12.

After the Storm had brilliantly killed off a 5 on 4 powerplay for the five minutes on Caria, Zane Kalemba then spoke out of term to the match official and saw Manchester having a man heading straight back again into box to sit the Kalemba’s penalty and go back on the penalty kill.

Coventry  without doubt bossed the second period of play, thanks mainly to the indiscipline by Storm in the middle stanza and especially the five minute powerplay that they had too.  The visitors really should have capitalised on it and it shown off their biggest problem for the Blaze currently, as they lack fire power on opponents goals.

 

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In the Third period and it needed an insurance marker for the Storm to feel a bit more comfortable and they got it through Matt Sisca with 42 seconds gone in the period, after Devin Didiomete shot on goal was stopped by Stewart and Grant Toulmin managed to be alert and prod it into the path of Sisca who slammed it home for 2-0 at 40:42. 

Vinny Scarsella nearly made it three for the hosts, after his drive up ice saw him skating round the goals and his attempted wraparound missed the goals by inches and would have been a terrific solo goal had it gone in.

Manchester kept pushing for a third goal and despite some good play by the side, they just couldn’t find finish the Blaze off. Didiomete then got called for a elbowing penalty at 52:43, as his big hit against the boards on Coventry’s James Jorgensen saw the Blaze given another powerplay opportunity and one they needed to score on.

After all the pressure the Blaze had put on the Storm in the game, it was bound to result in a goal somewhere down the line and so it occurred on a powerplay from Neil Trimm at 53:21.  Mike Quensnele had done brilliantly well to keep the puck inside the Storm zone and after some quick passing by the visitors, it saw Trimm collecting the puck and his rising shot beat the glove of Kalemba for a 2-1 game.

This season has saw Manchester thrown countless leads away when they have been in front for most of them and almost seemed like they have doubted themselves on many occasions this season when their opponents push hard. However on this night that was not the case and saw the resilient defending by the home side  keeping the Blaze out, while the fans in the stands were biting their nails on both sets of supporters.

Coventry coach Chuck Weber then pulled his goalie and sent the extra attacker on to try and score the tying goal in the game. The move nearly worked too as the Blaze struck the post for the third time in the match and put Storm under severe pressure for the remainder of the match. Despite their late efforts it would be too late in the day and deven though they outshot the hosts 23-8 in the final period, the Manchester Storm held out for a fantastic defensive performance and shown some qualities in their team play that had been lacking up to now.

Storm player-coach Omar Pacha told Storm TV about the importance of the win after the game saying, “Good feeling to win and having only one game this weekend we knew the importance of the game standing wise, so it’s a big two points for us”.

Pacha was also quick to mention the side defensive changes to their play as well and praised the efforts of his defence, who were down to 4 defenceman for the game with Davey Phillips and Matt Folkes missing from the line up.

” The Three defenceman in ‘Chilly’ (Chillcott), Paul Phillips and Rick (Birzinsh) played an excellent game tonight and also played excellent last week too.”

The win for Storm sees them equal their winning streak on the season with two, but they’ll hope to make it three against Belfast on Saturday before they meet in the Challenge Cup quarter finals in a near future. 

 

Bottom of the League:

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ICE HOCKEY: Dundee Shoot For The ‘STARS’ Over Poor Storm

 

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MANCHESTER STORM     4    –    6    DUNDEE STARS

Manchester Storm player-coach in Omar Pacha refused to give an excuses for his side 6-4 horror show on Saturday night against the Dundee Stars, with a the word ‘capitulation’ best in describing their first period performance as they found themselves 4-1 down after twenty minutes at home and never recovered in truth.

Both sides were even in the opening exchanges but once the travelling Stars took a 8th minute lead in the game they never looked back. The opening goal all came from a long stretch pass up the ice to John Dolan, who then got behind the Storm defence and despite netminder Zane Kalemba making the stop, the puck still stayed in the Manchester zone and Martins Porejs shot was stopped by Kalemba but Ryan Wetmore was quick to turn it in for a 1-0 lead.

Dundee then doubled their lead at 11:47 after a puck was put on net by Mikael Lidhammar and with Kalemba unaware of where the puck was, Curtis Leinweber was quick to jab it home around the skates of the goalie for 2-0.   Slovakian forward Patrik Valcak then struck for the hosts on a delayed penalty, as it put the Storm on the board and within one of their opponent.

Stars forward Brett Switzer then fired over the shoulder of Kalemba to see them move back out to two goal lead, as they when 3-1 in front at 15:25 after another defensive lapse and it was becoming all too easy now for the Scottish side.

Things got worse for the Storm when some more slack defending at the back let in Justin Faryna easily pinching the puck off the two defencemen, and his pass to the slot was one timed by Brett Switzer to give Dundee a commanding 4-1 lead and see end a nightmare period for Manchester.

Just a seven days ago the reversal occurred, as the Storm were 4-1 up on the Braehead Clan and on that occasion saw Storm collapsing to the Scottish club, so  would this be history repeating itself again involving another Scottish side.  

Despite Manchester playing ever so slightly better than the first twenty minutes, it was always a case of too much to do for the short benched side but they didn’t help their cause either.

As at 33:43 the Stars moved four goals clear of their hosts through a goal by John Dolan, as the defence just stood still and allowed a pass played with pace by Riley Wetmore at the side to find Dolan and he just redirect it in at the front of the goal for 5-1 game and looked to be another heavy loss to the Stars.

Storm then netted their second goal of the game as Latvian defenceman Ricards Birzinsh scored his 3rd of the season, after his wrist shot from within the faceoff circle pinged in off the goal post and gave Manchester a glimmer of hope at 37:14.

24 seconds later and they then trailed by two goals as Patrik Valcak kept his legs moving, as he went from one side to the other with some great stick work and then unleashed a fantastic shot to beat the netminder all ends up for his second goal of the game and Manchester’s 3rd.

Dundee then restored their three goal advantage with Brett Switzer peeled away from his man at the front of the net and somehow finding just enough room to beat Kalemba and claim his hat trick goal for 6-3 at 40:20. That goal all but sealed victory early in the third for the Stars.

Storm weren’t done though, as they pulled back a consolation goal through Canadian forward Matt Caria, after Luke Salazar pass to Ricards Birzinsh saw the Latvian finding the forward free on the far side and Caria controlled the puck and fired high into the goal for a power play goal at 45.07 and make it 6-4 score.

Manchester pushed for these two goals to force overtime, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net and fell to another heavy defeat at home to the Stars after they had earlier in the year shipped seven goal to Dundee back in September.

Next up for Manchester sees them making the trip over the Irish Sea to the SSE Arena in Belfast to face the Giants tomorrow night (Sunday), before returning home to face the bottom of the table side the Coventry Blaze next Sunday night and where Storm have a perfect record so far over the West Midlands outfit. 

Rugby: Sharks Lack Bite In The Wet

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SALE SHARKS   15    NEWCASTLE FALCONS   15

We didn’t lose’ was Sale Sharks supremo Steve Diamond highest assessment of his side 15-15 draw with struggling Newcastle Falcons on Saturday. For the majority of the game it was played inside the Sale half and had the hosts seemingly just having a ‘Plan A’ and was unable to get a foothold in the game.

The hosts took a 2nd minute lead in the game through a Danny Cipriani penalty and it looked like the Sharks were getting into gear already. This was merely a smokescreen for the rest of the contest though, with Newcastle forcing their way into the game and tested the Sale defence in awful wintry conditions.

If the fact the driving Falcons forwards wasn’t enough to contend with, then the pounding rain and swirling wind around the AJ Bell Stadium made it even more difficult for both teams.

For Sale the ball became like the proverbial ‘bar of soap’ and just couldn’t get anything going in attack all. Newcastle then got awarded a Penalty and had Mike Delany despatching the ball through the uprights to level up. Cipriani kicked Sale back in front just past the midway point of the first half and in truth was very much against the run of play.

Sale’s constant game of kicking down field for territory and trying to force a knock-on wasn’t helping their cause and had the locals getting very frustrated by the lack of running the ball by the hosts. When the home side did attempted to run the ball they managed to knock it on more often than not and lost on some opportunities.

Their opponents  deservedly took the lead in the 25th minute of the game, after they claimed a turnover deep inside the Sharks 22  and made Sale pay for sloppy defending and saw Rob Vickers going over with the decision being confirmed by the video referee.  Tom Catterick saw his conversion go wide of the posts for the visitors after a gust of wind blew it off target and it would be problem that Sale would encounter later in the game.

Once again Sale side back in front with two penalties  successfully converted and saw the hosts heading into the half time break 12-8 up and touch fortunate to be in that position. Newcastle came out for the second half exactly like they did in the first putting their hosts under severe pressure from the restart.

Sale were pinned back in their own half and were not allowing to settle and was still sticking with their kicks up the pitch. For what the Sharks lacked in attack threat, they most certainly made up for in defence.

 

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As the Blue shirts swarmed around the Falcons players and didn’t giving them much joy in breaking through. Sale extended their lead in the the 50th minute, with once again Cipriani converting the place kick to give the Sharks a lead of 15-8.

Once more the North East club came banging on the door of the Sharks try line and with the constant wave of attack after attack by Newcastle, it saw them finally get another try through Jon Welsh and with the added points it made it 15-15.

That try ten minutes from time for Newcastle saw the game suddenly move into the realms of tactical play and had neither side wanting to lose the game, with the sides plotting their game play as the minutes ticked down.

Newcastle was awarded a glorious chance to take the lead with a penalty six minutes from time, but Catterick dragged his kick the wrong side of the near post and let Sale off of the hook well and truly.

With a couple of minutes remaining and everyone looking at the time, it saw the Sharks going for it from the line out and they managed to draw a penalty in the dying embers of the contest.

With the final seconds ticking down to zero on the clock, it meant that this was to be the final action of the game and saw Danny Cipriani given the chance to kick Sale to victory.

Everything looked set for a home win as  things seemed to a be in place for the kick. However what no one could accounted for was the wind at that end of the stadium and so when Cipriani kicked the ball towards the middle of the posts, a breeze took it away from goal and swirled away for a miss and saw the game end a draw.

On the whole it was a poor performance by the Sale side and one that Steve Diamond will not be fully happy with, while Newcastle who hadn’t won on the road this season was there for the taking, but Sale missed failed to make the most of it.

Newcastle played a brilliant game and despite them picking up a couple of points, they will be thinking it was a chance missed as they should have won the game with all the possession they had in truth.