There are certain moments in sport where a player just has to deliver. Alan Shearer taking a penalty; Stephen Curry from the free-throw line, or Ian Poulter in the Ryder Cup. In rugby, a reliable kicker can be the difference between relegation or staying up. For the Sale Sharks, the desire to have that role filled is becoming critical.
Sale’s disastrous kicking display in their loss to Leicester Tigers [19-15] showed how reliant they are on regular starter AJ MacGinty. Bereft of the American pivot, the Sharks failed to convert one shot at goal and left nine valuable points on the field.
Ultimately, when losing by four points, it highlights how fine the margins are in the Gallagher Premiership. A reliable kicker is a teams singular key role; so the ‘desperation’ of Sale Sharks to fill that role is worthy of analysis.
So far….a Season of Woe
Another week, another difficult day for Steve Diamond’s side. The Sharks have now lost four out of five matches so far and lie bottom of the table; two points behind Newcastle.
A scrappy contest at Welford Road was lit up by Kyle Eastmond and Gareth Owen providing the match’s only bright spark. An otherwise dour affair concluded with a late try from Curtis Langdon which ensured the Sharks at least left with a losing bonus point. But it was the performance from the tee which left the fans scratching their heads heading home.
Will Cliff missed three attempts and, Byron McGuigan failed with a final conversion. It is not entirely their fault – even though in the professional game, statistics are pure evidence of performance.
Sale Sharks regular reliable kicker, MacGinty, who has an outstanding 84.1% kicking accuracy, was missing and alternatives Faf de Klerk and James O’Connor were also unavailable.
However, in terms of the Sale Sharks’ Premiership-hopes, five games into the season, Steve Diamond should have at least one reliable back-up.
Dorian West addition may see improvement at Sale Sharks
Mistakes at crucial moments are costing the Sharks dear. Once again, they turned the ball over when close to the opposition line. Failing to convert the possession, territory and chances is a constant bugbear for Diamond. He will hope that the addition of the experienced Dorian West can add to the cutting edge his team so desperately lack.
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West is required to work his magic in the forwards and also generate some much-needed grunt. The pack was criticised for being ‘beaten up’ the previous week at home to Wasps, and need a big performance in the coming week(s).
If the inclusion of West, and a more concentrated effort from the backline can give the side confidence, then ‘kicking conversions’ may be the focus. Penalties are the bread and butter of any side, but a combined team effort could help Sale Sharks procure winning efforts….and of particular benefit, more bonus points.
A look ahead in the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership
Sale next take on the Falcons, in what is turning into an absolutely pivotal clash. ‘Desperately’ needing to find some form, the Sharks returning home should provide some comfort. Lose that game though and Diamond’s side face being cut adrift at the bottom of the table.
With so much on the line, Sale will be hoping for a performance like the one they just witnessed from George Ford. A player who has been often criticised in the past for a lack of accuracy from the tee. His 14 point haul and 100% record with the boot was the perfect display of the benefit of a reliable kicker.
For Diamond, the return of AJ MacGinty and Faf de Klerk cannot come early enough. Sharks fans are hoping that AJ overcomes his injury and is once again the reliable kicker they so desperately need.
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