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Hodges Steals The Show For Scarlets

Hodges Steals The Show For Scarlets

A late try from man of the match Dave Hodges secured victory for Llanelli in a match that looked as if it was slipping away from them for most of the second half (writes Dan O’Grady).

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Both sides started this crucial Heineken Cup Pool 3 game quite poorly, with a number of early handling errors. Llanelli drew first blood when referee Alain Rolland penalised Sale’s Iain Fullarton for offside and Stephen Jones was successful with the kick from 26 metres.

The Stradey Park faithful were in good voice early on but they were silenced on 13 minutes when Sale back row man Apollo Perelini went over for the visitors. Outside centre Dan Harris started the move with the initial break, the ball was ripped out and passed to Perelini who went through a big gap to score at the posts. Nick Walshe converted to give Sale a 7-3 lead as they responded to last week’s 30-19 defeat by the Scarlets in Manchester.

Llanelli responded with two penalties from in front of the posts by fly-half Jones to put themselves 9-7 ahead. A Scott Quinnell high tackle on Harris after 36 minutes gave Sale a penalty and Walshe the chance to put the Sharks back into the lead but his kick never looked like going over.

However, three minutes later Sale did go ahead, with a try from Australian centre Graeme Bond after the Sale forwards had set up a ruck five metres out and managed to recycle good, quick ball. Walshe received it at the base of the ruck, passed it right to openside flanker Richard Wilks who showed good handling skills in the tackle to send Bond over in the corner. Again, Walshe missed the kick and that meant that Sale’s half time lead was only three points.

Quinnell did not reappear after the interval due to a rib injury he picked up a minute before half time and Hodges came on in his place to make a huge impact on the game. The match burst into life three minutes into the second half when Sale prop Barry Stewart took exception to some of Martyn Madden’s footwork at a ruck and went flying in with his fists, sparking off a mass brawl.

Llanelli made a lot of mistakes in the first 20 minutes of the second half and the crowd of 7,182 started to become a bit frustrated. However, the Scarlets responded well and nearly scored when Leigh Davies was tackled into touch three metres out from the line as he went for the left corner.

Llanelli were camped in the Sharks’ 22 for the following five minutes but they couldn’t break down the superb Sale defence. The moment Llanelli were praying for came on 75 minutes when a Matthew Watkins cross kick bounced straight into the hands of Hodges who was loitering out on the right wing. He had five metres to go and dived over to regain the lead and provide considerable relief all around Stradey Park. Stephen Jones missed the conversion but made amends by kicking a simple penalty a minute from the end.

Scorers:Llanelli; Try: D Hodges; Pens: S Jones 4.
Sale Sharks: Tries: A Perelini, G Bond; Con: N Walshe.

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