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In a topsy-turvy encounter that was played at breakneck speed, Brian Smith’s men showed plenty of guts and determination to fight back and claim a valuable five points.
Irish started in the ascendency but went behind after three minutes. Ian Humphreys kicked the ball beautifully to the far corner looking for Conor Gaston, a late replacement for Guy Armitage. The ball went slightly beyond the Ulsterman and into the hands of Peel who went the length of the field to open the scoring.
Alex Corbisiero and Shane Geraghty were instrumental in the opening 40 minutes. Corbisiero was solid at the set piece and carrying well in the loose. Geraghty was orchestrating the backline superbly and added a creative dimension to the Irish attack.
Cipriani put the visitors 8-0 ahead with a well struck penalty before Irish registered their first points of the afternoon. The forwards carried well through the phases and quick ball created space around the breakdown. Allinson passed to Garvey who broke through the defensive line to score his second try for the Club. Humphreys added the conversion to make it a one point ball game.
Humphreys put Irish in front but his penalty goal was cancelled out by Cipriani. The former England fly half had the final say before the break crossing in the left hand corner. He kicked the conversion to give Sale an 18 10 lead at half time.
Cipriani kicked his third penalty four minutes into the second half which seemed to spark an Irish recovery.
George Skivington crossed for his first try for the London Irish and strolled in from 20 metres after great initial work from Topsy Ojo who broke down the left hand flank. Ian Humphreys kicked the conversion to cut the deficit to four points.
Irish were the far more dominant side at the set piece but were not getting just for their efforts. On four or more occasions referee, Ian Tempest, had to penalise Sale for penalties at the scrum and there was no sign of a penalty try. Matt Garvey did however manage to get the five points his side deserved. Ian Humphreys kicked the ball to the far touchline where Garvey was on hand to dot down his second try
of the afternoon. Humphreys converted to put Irish three points ahead.
The Exiles were chasing the bonus point score and eventually got it with an intercept by Shane Geraghty with two minutes left. The home defence pushed up on the visitors and Geraghty was on hand to capitalise.
Charlie Amesbury crossed on 80 minutes for a consolation score for the visitors.
Next up for Irish is a trip to Welford Road to take on Leicester in Round 2 of the LV=Cup.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-5, 0-8, 7-8, 10-8, 10-11, 10-18, 10-21, 17-21, 24-21, 27-21, 34-21, 34-28
Scorers: Tries: Sale: Peel (3) Cipriani (38), Amesbury (80); Penalties: Cipriani (18, 37, 44); Conversions: Cipriani, Miller; London Irish: Tries: Garvey (22, 64) Skivington (51), Geraghty (78) ; Conversions: Humphreys (4); Penalties: Humphreys (31, 76)
London Irish team
15. Anthony Watson; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 12. Shane Geraghty; 11. Conor Gaston; 10. Ian Humphreys (rep: Steve Shingler, 78); 9. Darren Allinson; 1. Alex Corbisiero (rep: Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 62); 2. Brian Blaney (rep: Gerad Ellis, 73); 3. Leo Halavatau (rep: Cai Griffiths, 73); 4. George Skivington; 5. Bryn Evans (Captain) (rep: Kieran Low, 78); 6. Matt Garvey; 7. Jamie Gibson; 8. Chris Hala’ufia (rep: Alex Gray (51)
Replacements: 16. Gerard Ellis; 17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa; 18. Cai Griffiths; 19. Kieran Low; 20. Alex Gray; 21. Conor Gaston; 22. Steven Shingler; 23. Connor Murphy
Sale Sharks team
15.Rob Miller, 14.Charlie Amesbury, 13.Will Addison, 12.Mark Jennings, 11.Cameron Shepherd, 10.Danny Cipriani (rep: Corne Uys, 73), 9.Dwayne Peel (Captain), 1. Ross Harrison (rep: James Flynn, 74), 2.Tommy Taylor, 3.Vadim Cobilas (rep: Tony Buckley, 57), 4.Fraser McKenzie, 5.James Gaskell, 6.Andy Powell (rep: kearnan Myall, 30), 7.Richie Vernon, 8.Mark Easter
Replacements: 16.Tom Cruse, 17. James Flynn, 18.Tony Buckley, 19.Kearnan Myall, 20.Will Bordill, 21.Will Cliff, 22.Jordan Davies, 23.Corne Uys
Referee: Ian Tempest
Attendance: 5, 757