Friday 13 September 2013 – 8.00pm
Salford City Stadium, Salford
Aviva Premiership #2
That was much better! As I thought more about last week’s game against Bath, I wondered whether it had passed the team by somewhat, whether at the end of the game they wished they could play it again.
Well, last night their heads were screwed on and they silenced a home crowd that was vocal in getting behind Sale in the first half. A performance of grit and commitment, of defence that said “Throw everything you have at us, but you are not getting through”. One of the most enjoyable parts of the game for me was after the clock hit zero at the end, and with Sale picking and driving desperately to find some gap on halfway, the Falcons must have driven them back ten or twenty metres. It was beautiful to watch.
We’re seventh in the league now, going into the rest of the weekend’s games!
So matchday was another roadtrip from the village of the damned. I was a bit late leaving the house as I tried to find a decent pair of shoes, and also my CDs that were in one of many boxes still not unpacked since our move north. I’m getting a bit bored with Now 74 disc one.
Eventually I found Now 33. Looking at the back I saw that it included ‘He’s on the Phone’ by St Etienne, the greatest song in history. After picking up the missus in Lancaster, I said we should save that until the trip home from Salford to celebrate.
There were speed restrictions and a couple of tailbacks on the motorways around Manchester along with the customary rain for that part of the country, but not long after six we were in the Unicorn pub enjoying a nice cold Brown Ale, and then pie, chips and gravy on the walk to the stadium. One truck driver was so hungry he tooted quite vigorously as we crossed the road in front of him!
Salford City Stadium, or the AJ Bell Stadium as it is apparently now known, is a nice ground, with a bar on the outside of the big stand (by big I mean twice the size as the other three) and a good view from behind the goal, where the standing Falcons fans were situated. For one night only, we were the North Stand Choir. The stadium will be better once they get some stuff built around it, as the area is a bit desolate at the moment.
Nobody else seems to understand either why it was built near a motorway junction rather than a train station when apparently Sale and Salford have a “moral and legal obligation” to encourage people to use public transport.
The Fosters under the main stand was dodgy, but the Strongbow was working. The tiffin cake went down well, even if the writing got a bit skewed. The Sale-supporting kids in front of us certainly liked it.
Sale started the stronger but there was an atmosphere of optimism in the away end, and it took a controversial yellow card for Dom Barrow for pulling a maul down – a maul I am told he was not even a part of – to allow Sale to steal in for a try near the end of the first half. But at 11-9 down at the break the game was in the balance. It seemed to have gone pretty much as I expected, with our forwards on top, particularly in the scrum, but Sale’s backs attacked at pace and one thought that if they could find a gap then they could score, as indeed happened.
In the second half, Sale’s morale seemed to drop a bit and the home crowd quietened, while the away fans smelled blood. Phil Godman looked far more confident than last week and his kicks from hand were far more accurate. As was his radar for goal, as his fourth penalty put the Falcons ahead for the first time.
This is when I really start to get nervous – I’ve gone from looking at the clock and thinking “It’s OK, we’ve still got 25 minutes to score” to thinking “Oh no, they’ve still got 25 minutes to score”. Time to use some of that thought manifestation stuff.
But even when Sale went back ahead, the Falcons kept their heads up in a way they didn’t against Bath and the travelling fans kept roaring them on. Eventually Rory Clegg, who looks a class act and should, in my view, be straight into the team for Leicester, knocked over the winning kick.
Sale probed but I never felt like they really looked like scoring. As I’ve said, when they were picking and driving in the final seconds, the Falcons were driving them backwards and finally we got the relief of the full-time whistle.
It was a merry drive back up the M6, and the phrase “party bus” was heard from more than one suppy bus traveller.
The Sale fans are not too happy, judging by their message board. I suppose they wouldn’t be – they’ve just beaten Gloucester away so are clearly not a bad team. But for the Falcons, we now have a platform on which to build in the rest of the season and a boost ahead of Leicester away, one of the hardest games of the season. Can’t wait for that one.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)