London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Danny Cipriani edges out Gavin Henson in relegation battle

London Welsh 25 Sale 26: Cipriani comes edges out Henson in relegation battle

By
Rob Wildman

PUBLISHED:

17:57 GMT, 17 February 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:06 GMT, 18 February 2013

Gavin versus Danny proved to be an evenly-fought sideshow at the Kassam Stadium on Sunday in a raw relegation battle.

Sale edged the tussle thanks to tries either side of half-time which helped them to only their fourth Premiership win of the season.

If their careers had gone to plan Gavin Henson and Danny Cipriani would have been preparing for Six Nations games rather than being rival club fly halves as they attempt to rebuild careers.

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow relegation strugglers

Fluency: Sale's Danny Cipriani was the linchpin in a vital win for the Sharks over their fellow strugglers

Both enjoyed impressive games. Henson
took the London Welsh sponsor’s man-of-the-match award, but it was
Cipriani’s Sale who emerged victorious in a fraught, penalty–strewn
game.

‘Relief, that’s the best word,’ said
Steve Diamond, Sale’s director of rugby. ‘But we are still bottom and
have Harlequins and Leicester to come in the next two weeks so we are
not out of the mire.’

Yet Sale are daring to hope at the
bottom of the 12-team competition. This was a second successive win,
following a similar triumph over Exeter, and four points here put them a
point behind 11th-placed London Irish and three off Welsh.

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

Battle: London Welsh's Jonathan Mills is tackled by Sale Sharks' Dan Baird

And there is
no doubting that in Cipriani they have an attacking No 10 who could yet
lead them to safety.

He helped make a crucial try for
scrum-half Will Cliff just before half-time, producing the acceleration
and distribution, alongside wing Charlie Amesbury, which gained him
England recognition.

He also kicked 13 points before being
replaced by Nick Macleod who is considered to be more dependable and a
better defender for such tense finales.

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Offload: Sale's Danny Cipriani passes under the attention of London Welsh's Adam Balding

Henson, playing his first full game in
three months due to injury, also produced play that brought back
memories of his best days for Wales. He landed one long-distance penalty
attempt and set up wing Phil Mackenzie for his team’s only try in the
48th minute.

It was a beautifully-timed pass by
Henson whose conversion put Welsh 22-20 ahead. He then banged over a
second penalty to increase the lead to 25-20 only for Cipriani to reply
in the 60th minute.

It was Cipriani’s last contribution,
Macleod kicking the penalty nine minutes from time which put his team a
decisive 26-25 ahead.

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Strike: Gavin Henson scored eight points for Welsh, but that was not enough

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Stopped: London Welsh's Julio Cabello falls short of the line as Welsh looked to get a late winner

Welsh’s head coach Lyn Jones said: ‘We
just did not take our chances when we had them.’ After Cipriani put
Sale ahead in the ninth minute, Welsh fed off Sale’s poor discipline
for Alex Davies to kick three penalty goals followed by Henson’s
long-distance toe-bunger.

But it was a series of rash Welsh errors which allowed Sale back.

Cipriani kicked another penalty and then escaped down the right, with Amesbury, to make Cliff’s try

Sale continued on the attack after the
break and Dan Braid, an impressive arrival from New Zealand, scampered
in for the second try.

Welsh regained the lead when Henson made Mackenzie’s try but Sale held their nerve.

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match

Five points: Phil MacKenzie of London Welsh dives over to score their only try of the match