Hodgson, back to full fitness after missing the World Cup and the Six Nations with a troublesome knee injury, was on form with his boot, adding three penalties, two conversions and a drop-goal – giving him the unique feat of scoring in every way possible en route to a match-haul of 21 points.
Jones's try, Sale's first, produced a controversial moment as his namesake, England No.8 Chris Jones, looked to have stepped over the touchline before flinging the ball back inside to centre Rhys, who trotted over unopposed – international referee Tony Spreadbury having no hesitation in awarding the try.
Two penalties from Hodgson built up Sale's lead to 13-0, before the home side got on the scoreboard through a Gordon Ross penalty goal, followed soon afterwards by a score from Dan Hyde, before another Hodgson penalty saw the half-time score at 16-8 in the visitors' favour.
Hodgson slotted his drop-goal early in the second half as well as scoring his try, before Leeds threatened with a try from Matt Cardey, which Duncan Hodge converted.
A late try from Sale winger Mark Cueto put the result beyond doubt, however, even after a late try from Tom Palmer.
Sale went to Leeds needing a maximum five points to stand a chance of finishing in fifth place, but Leicester Tigers' 48-17 demolition of Wasps meant the Sharks' win was academic.
They now travel to Kingsholm next Saturday where they will face Gloucester in their Wildcard semi-final, as they look to qualify for the Heineken Cup next season.
If Sharks win at Gloucester they will be at Twickenham on Saturday, May 29 for the Wildcard Final. If Sale lose, but Wasps win the Heineken Cup Final, Sharks will go to Twickenham as 'lucky losers', as Gloucester will automatically be given a Heineken Cup place.
Leicester will play Harlequins next Saturday in the other Wildcard semi-final. It is all ifs and buts there too. If Leicester win and Harlequins lose in the Parker Pen Cup Final, the Tigers will get the sixth Heineken Cup place and Sale Sharks will play Quins at Twickenham in the Wildcard Final for the last Heineken Cup place.
For Leeds Tykes:Tries: Hyde, Cardey, PalmerCon: HodgePen: Ross
For Sale Sharks:Tries: R Jones, Hodgson, CuetoCons: Hodgson 2Pens: Hodgson 3DG: Hodgson