England outcast Charlie Hodgson handed national coach Brian Ashton a timely selection dilemma by scoring 19 points as rock-bottom Leeds suffered further away-day blues.
Leeds, who last won in the GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP back in October, saw their winless run on the road – which now stretches back to November 2005 – extended thanks to Hodgson’s near-impeccable kicking display and a try from Luke McAlister.
With England rival Jonny Wilkinson stuttering at present and Ashton reluctant to throw in Wasps’ youngster Danny Cipriani into the unforgiving Six Nations limelight – Hodgson put the pressure on the pair with a faultless showing.
Leeds number 10 Alberto Di Bernado had the first shot at goal but he failed to make early pressure from the visitors tell as he pushed a kickable penalty wide.
And his miss proved to be all the encouragement the Sale pack needed as Leeds were penalised at the scrum, allowing England discard Hodgson to score the first points of the game.
The Sale number 10 soon added to his personal tally; first knocking over a penalty after Magnus Lund was pulled back and moments later he punishing further Leeds’ indiscipline with his third three-pointer of the half.
New Zealander McAlister was pulling all the strings for Sale in midfield and it was his incisive line that handed the home side their first try of the night.
Leeds collected a poor Oriol Ripol clearance but was immediately turned over, allowing Hodgson to find the excellent McAlister, who cut an excellent angle and from inside his own half he galloped over despite the best efforts of wing Tom Biggs.
Sale could have added a second try just moments before the break but Richard Wigglesworth – fresh from his first England cap – and Lund were held up short of the Leeds line, while Lee Thomas knocked on with the line at his mercy.
Di Bernado struck early for the visitors with a penalty as Leeds attempted to drag themselves off the canvas in the opening minutes of the second half.
However, Sale were soon back in control as Hodgson continued to add to his ever-growing points’ tally kicking a further two penalties as Leeds indiscipline was punished.
Despite dominating possession and being camped in the Leeds 22 throughout the second 40 minutes – Sale failed to take advantage wasting a string of gilt-edged chances.
Sale’s dominance was further aided when Leeds substitute Adam Balding was sin-binned for a high tackle on England wing Mark Cueto in the 70th minute.
Hodgson turned down three kicks at goal in the second as Sale pushed for a second try and their dominance was finally rewarded late on as replacement Chris Bell scored seven minutes from time for the Sharks.