Jennings shows his class as Irish show frailties
YOU KNOW it is going to be your evening when a player, who has gone 155 games without scoring, finally gets across the whitewash.
Ross Harrison has been a staple of the Sale front row for the last few years and his 13th minute effort, from a dominant driving maul, set the tone for what proved to be a chastening night for London Irish.
Exiles’ fans will justifiably ask what has happened since their remarkable opening day victory over Harlequins, following a performance which, quite simply, was not Premiership standard.
Sharks’ supporters may well pose a similar question – the difference being that they will be far more positive – after seeing their side produce an assured display, seven days on from their shambolic set-piece against Newcastle.
The issues which engulfed their lineout last weekend were gone while the opportunities were snaffled by a backline who thrived behind an abrasive forward pack.
Among a fine squad performance, there were some excellent individual displays. Faf de Klerk was electric, Jono Ross and Ben Curry were industrious in both the loose and tight, but it was centre Mark Jennings who shone the brightest, showing the type of ballast which would have impressed Eddie Jones.
The England head honcho has already stated his preference for increasing the size of his backline and, while he does not get above the magical 100kg (15st 10lb) barrier, the 24year-old’s dynamism and power in contact was too much for Nick Kennedy’s men.
It will be a concern for the Exiles’ boss that, for all the brilliance of their round one victory, they have since failed physically to match Exeter and Sale.
AJ MacGinty had the first say, taking Diamond’s men in front from the tee.
That soon became a tenpoint buffer when Harrison had his moment in the sun before Denny Solomona benefited from de Klerk’s excellent work to cross the line.
Irish had barely fired a shot but, when they finally did, it only ended in another Sale touchdown as a poor pass was pounced upon by Solomona and the England win scampered over unopposed.
Josh Charnley’s second half try, following a yellow card for Blair Cowan, confirmed the bonus-point, but the visitors responded when Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try after Halani Aulika collapsed a rolling maul.
Sale and Jennings had the final word, however, via the centre’s well-taken effort, after Cowan had been sent-off for a second yellow card, leaving Kennedy with plenty to ponder going into next weekend’s game against a revitalised Northampton.
“We know the reality of the Premiership,” Irish’s director of rugby said. “You make any mistakes and you get punished.
“We’re just going to have to learn quickly. We’re going to keep getting better as we adapt to the league and we adapt to the standard of it.”
Dynamic: Sale centre Mark Jennings makes a break
Instinctive: Denny Solomona breaks through the Irish defence to score