Warriors Under-18s were narrowly beaten 22-20 by Sale Sharks at Manchester Metropolitan University in the opening round of the Premiership Rugby Academy League.
A converted try from Sale number eight Ollie Leatherbarrow six minutes from time proved decisive as Warriors’ superb defensive resistance was cruelly undone.
Warriors had looked like they were going to hang on to the spoils with every player working incredibly hard for one another on the slick 3G pitch.
Skipper Seb Atkinson gave Warriors the early advantage on 10 minutes, the Bromsgrove School pupil intercepting on halfway to sprint in under the posts. Fin Smith, who kicked all four of his kicks, made no mistake with the conversion to put Warriors 7-0 ahead.
From the restart the hosts immediately hit back through the impressive Nye Thomas, the scrum-half scooting over to cut the gap to 7-5.
Warriors’ tough tackling coupled with their expansive attacking intent was evident throughout the first period, and on 21 minutes their endeavour was rewarded when Smith slotted home a penalty from 30 metres out to increase their lead to 10-5.
Sale, all in red, came back with a period of sustained pressure, but were thwarted by a scrambling Warriors defence. The pressure told when visiting hooker Joe Richardson was yellow carded for infringing at the breakdown. Sale fly-half Patrick Bishop missed the subsequent penalty, but was successful three minutes later to reduce the deficit to 10-8.
Warriors went into the break with the edge, however from the restart Sale half-back Thomas dotted down for his brace to give Warriors much to ponder in the opening stages of the second period.
The Sixways outfit responded in emphatic fashion through JJ Williams, who crashed over from close range after excellent handling skills in a tight corner. Smith’s exquisite touchline conversion put Warriors 17-15 ahead. Two minutes later Smith’s radar boot came to the fore once more, this time a penalty increasing Warriors’ lead to 20-15.
Sale were relentless in building pressure on Warriors’ try line, but the visitors defence stood firm with some last ditch tackles coming to their rescue. The likes of Jack Lewis and Jack Forsythe delivered some bone-crunching tackles to keep Sale at bay.
While Warriors endured a Sale attacking onslaught, they also had an attacking threat with the backline looking to counter at speed. Isaac Wilding and Alex Evans looked dangerous on both wings, but Sale to their credit kept them at bay.
With Warriors looking like they might hold on to a memorable victory, Sale’s Leatherbarrow delivered a killer blow as he raced in on the overlap on the back of a swift backline move. With the score poised at 20-20, the match all hinged on the conversion which replacement scrum-half Murray Redpath duly kicked to give Sale a 22-20 victory.
Sale Sharks | 15 Elliot Gourlay, 14 Cameron Melville, 13 Roma Zheng, 12 Joe Bedlow, 11 Owen Fisher, 10 Patrick Bishop, 9 Nye Thomas, 1 Tumy Onasanya, 2 Ethan Caine, 3 Corey Bowker, 4 Ewan Murphy, 5 Nonso Agina, 6 Alastair Merrill, 7 Max Jackson, 8 Ollie Leatherbarrow
Replacements | 16 Dan Cooper, 17 Harris Fishwick, 18 Louis Fletcher, 19 Nathan Brooks, 20 Alfie Clarke, 21 Murray Redpath, 22 Josh Clarke, 23 Archie Kellett
Warriors | 15 Tobi Wilson, 14 Alex Evans, 13 Harry Spencer, 12 Seb Atkinson (c), 11 Isaac Wilding, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Ollie Wynn, 1 Ben Murphy, 2 Joe Richardson, 3 Ben Rowley, 4 Ewan Guy, 5 Harry Smith, 6 JJ Williams, 7 Jack Lewis, 8 Jack Forsythe
Replacements | 16 Fin Thomas, 17 Josh Marsden, 18 Adam Lane, 19 Tom Miles, 20 Fin Morgan, 21 Flynn Vries
10m | Atkinson try 0-5
11m | Smith con 0-7
12m | Thomas try 5-7
20m | Smith pen 5-10
29m | Bishop pen 8-10
40m | Thomas try 13-10
41m | Bishop con 15-10
45m | Williams try 15-15
46m | Smith con 15-17
47m | Smith pen 15-20
60m | Leatherbarrow try 20-20
61m | Redpath con 22-20