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Both sides showed attacking endeavour in the first half but it was ultimately Sale who played slightly the smarter rugby in the second half to knick the win.
Sale Sharks scored the first try of the game from their very first attack. Dwayne Peel made a sniping run after ball was won off the top of the lineout, before delivering a reverse pass to full back Rob Miller who beat one defender before passing to Henry Thomas who marched over for the opening score. Nick Macleod’s conversion went over off the post to give Sale an early 7 point lead.
Irish fought their way back into the game well. Tom Homer put in a huge up and under kick and chased well putting the Sharks fullback under immense pressure to reclaim the ball. From the resulting phases, referee, Sean Davey, penalised the home side for being continuously offside around the breakdown. Tom Homer kicked the penalty from under the posts to put Irish on the board.
Irish scored their first try of the game after 18 minutes. Steven Shingler kicked the ball into the corner from the penalty when three points were very kickable. David Paice threw the ball into the lineout and moments later found the ball in his hands to crash his way over from a metre out. Tom Homer kicked the conversion over to put the Exiles in the lead by 10 points to 7.
London Irish lost concentration from the next restart failing to claim the high kick off. The ball fell nicely into the hands of Sharks blindside flanker James Gaskell who ran in untouched to score his side’s second try. Macleod added the conversion to give the Sharks a 14-10 lead.
Tom Homer and Nick Macleod traded penalties after Sale were first penalised for slowing the ball down and then Irish were similarly penalised at the breakdown.
From a solid set piece Jonathan Joseph darted over for London Irish’s second try. Chris Hala’ufia held the ball safely at the back of the scrum before Allinson fed Bowden who fizzed a wide pass to the flying Jonathan Joseph who ran beat his opposite number for pace before diving over in the corner. Homer added the difficult conversion to put Irish 20-17 ahead.
Tom Homer kicked a 40 metre penalty and Nick Macleod replied with three points of his own for Sale to finish a thoroughly entertaining half of Premiership rugby.
The second half started slowly for both sides. Marland Yarde crossed the line for Irish but the pass in the lead up was called forward by the referee Davy. From the resulting scrum Dermody and Halavatau put immense pressure of the Sale front row, driving their opponents back to win the penalty. Homer opened the scoring with his fourth penalty of the match.
Sale scored their third try in the 57th minute with referee Davy missing the forward pass in the lead up. Nothing however could be taken away from the finish of Dwayne Peel who managed to find a small enough hole to run through to score the opening try of the second half. Macleod added the conversion to put the Sharks one point ahead.
Irish were starved off possession for long moments of the final quarter as the ball seemed to be bouncing better for the home side. Rob Miller kicked his first penalty of the game to put Sale 30 points to 26 ahead going into the last 10 minutes.
Tom Homer kicked his seventh successive kick with two and a half minutes left on the clock to bring Irish within a point. It was not enough as Sale held on to claim the four points.
Irish head to Franklins Gardens next Saturday to take on Northampton Saints.
Score Sequence: (London Irish first) 0-7, 3-7, 10-7, 10-14, 13-14, 13-17, 20-17, 23-17, 23-20, 26-20, 26-27, 26-30, 29-30
Scorers: London Irish: Tries: David Paice, Jonathan Joseph; Conversions: Homer 2; Penalties: Homer 5 Sale Sharks: Tries: Henry Thomas, James Gaskell, Dwayne Peel; Conversions: Macleod 3; Penalties; Macleod 2, Rob Miller
15. Rob Miller; 14. Tom Brady (rep: Charlie Amesbury, 60); 13. Andrew Higgins; 12. Will Addison; 11. Joaquin Tuculet; 10. Nick MacLeod; 9. Dwayne Peel; 1. Lee Imiolek (rep: Aston Croall, 53); 2. Joe Ward (rep: Neil Briggs, 53); 3. Henry Thomas; 4. Fraser McKenzie; 5. Kearnan Myall; 6. James Gaskell; 7. David Seymour (Captain); 8. Mark Easter
Replacements: 16. Neil Briggs; 17. Aston Croall; 18. Vadim Cobilas; 19. Tom Holmes; 20. Tommy Taylor; 21. Scott Mathie; 22. Jordan Davies; 23. Charlie Amesbury
15. Tom Homer; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Jonathan Joseph; 12. Steve Singler; 11. Marland Yarde (rep: Adam Thompstone, 48); 10. Daniel Bowden; 9. Darren Allinson (rep: Paul Hodgson, 55); 1. Clarke Dermody (Captain) (rep: Max Lahiff, 55); 2. David Paice (rep: James Buckland, 65); 3. Leo Halalvatau; 4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Matt Garvey (rep: Tom Alexander, 60); 6. Kieran Roche (rep: Ed Siggery, 59); 7. Alex Gray; 8. Chris Hala’ufia
Replacements: 16. James Buckland; 17. Max Lahiff; 18. Mark George; 19. Tom Alexander; 20. Ed Siggery; 21. Adam Thompstone; 22. Guy Armitage; 23. Paul Hodgson
Referee: Sean Davey