Sale Sharks guaranteed their place in next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup in style, Sam Tuitupou grabbing two of their eight tries in a 55-12 bonus point victory over Exeter Chiefs.
The Sharks headed to Exeter having lost on all their previous trips to Sandy Park, but got off to a fast start as tries from Michal Paterson, Tom Arscott and Tuitopou gave the visitors a 19-0 lead.
Fetu’u Vainikolo went over just before half-time to give Exeter Chiefs hope of a comeback but it was soon extinguished after the break as Tuitupou grabbed his second and Dwayne Peel went over.
And Dave Seymour, Tom Brady and Andrei Ostrikov helped themselves to tries late on as Sale recorded five consecutive away Aviva Premiership victories for the first time in their history – Carl Rimmer’s late consolation score doing little to raise Chiefs spirits.
After both sides felt each other out in the opening ten minutes Paterson brought the game to life, brushing past would-be tacklers Gareth Steenson, Jack Yeandle and Dave Ewers before touching down, Danny Cipriani converting.
Sale were then awarded a penalty and Cipriani opted to kick for touch rather than go for the posts to highlight their early dominance.
And the decision paid off as soon Arscott had Sharks’ second try, although this time Cipriani’s conversion bounced off an upright.
Missed tackles were proving Exeter’s downfall and they were once again their own worst enemy as Tuitupou grabbed Sale’s third try.
Viliami Fihaki broke before passing to Seymour and although he was tackled the ball was recycled to the left wing and Tuitupou scored – Cipriani drilling the extras.
Just as half-time was looming Exeter Chiefs gave their fans some hope as after a lineout was won the ball was recycled well and superb work by Phil Dollman saw Vainikolo race clear to go under the posts and give Steenson the simplest of conversions.
This try seemed to boost the hosts and they started the second half strongly with Sale Sharks defending doggedly to keep them at bay.
They did exactly that and on 56 minutes they made the home side pay as Tuitupou secured the bonus point try, benefitting from a great delayed pass from Cipriani, the fly-half adding the extras.
Although they had the bonus point wrapped up Sale were in no mood to ease up and Peel was sent over by Andrei Ostrikov for a fifth try, Cipriani sending the tough conversion through the posts.
Next over for Sale was Seymour as he intercepted a pass and raced over, Cipriani adding the extras once again.
Joe Ford came off the bench and duly sent over a drop goal, but his conversion attempt after Brady went over in the corner for Sale’s seventh try came back of an upright.
Rimmer went over for a pushover try to raise a few spirits at Sandy Park but replacement Ostrikov followed suit at the other end with Sale’s eighth score of the game.