Flanker Matt Garvey crossed twice as London Irish gained revenge over Sale Sharks with a 34-28 bonus-point win at the Madejski Stadium that kick-starts their LV= Cup campaign.
Garvey, who normally plays in the second row, scored a try in each half, in addition to scores from lock George Skivington and centre Shane Geraghty as the Exiles came from behind to see off the Sharks.
Danny Cipriani was Sale’s chief threat, the 25-year-old finishing with a 16-point haul that included a try and three penalties but he could do little to stop the Irish onslaught after the interval.
In a re-match of last weekend’s Aviva Premiership clash that saw the Sharks claim their first win of the season, both sides opted to field near enough their strongest sides in a bid to build some momentum.
That meant that England international Alex Corbisiero came in for his first start of the season following knee surgery in the summer while Dwayne Peel and Cipriani continued their half-back pairing for Sale.
And it was captain for the day Peel who crossed for the game’s first try with only three minutes on the clock, collecting a high Ian Humphreys kick on the wing and haring down the touchline from well inside his own half to cross, Cipriani missing with the conversion.
Despite Sharks opening the scoring it was the Exiles who dominated the scrappy opening proceedings as Sale spent the majority of the first ten minutes on the back foot.
Shane Geraghty and Topsy Ojo both came agonisingly close to crossing for Irish’s first score but some heroic last-ditch defending kept Brian Smith’s troops at bay.
Geraghty was held up over the try line while Ojo was scragged by Mark Jennings underneath the posts but despite the Exiles constant pressure it was Sale who scored next to extend their lead, Cipriani nailing a penalty from near halfway to make it 8-0.
Irish needed a response at the Madejski and it was second-row Garvey who provided it, barging over after Humphreys’ initial break in the 23rd minute, the Ulsterman adding the extras to reduce the gap to one at 8-7.
And just after the half hour the Exiles were deservedly in front as Humphreys drilled a long-range penalty after the Sharks were penalised at scrum time.
But only moments later Cipriani put the visitors back in front despite slipping in the act of kicking his penalty after Irish this time were caught out in the scrum.
11-10 to Sale looked all set to be the scoreline at the interval but straight from Irish’ restart Charlie Amesbury made a fine break and when the ball was recycled to the right Cipriani was on hand to go over in the corner, his conversion making it 18-10 at the break.
And straight after the interval Cipriani continued where he left off, slotting another penalty to stretch Sale’s lead to 11 points after Irish strayed offside.
The opening ten minutes of the second period were dominated by the home side though and they finally got their reward when Skivington forced his way under the posts after fine work from Ojo down the right, Humphreys’ conversion making it 21-17 with half an hour still to play.
The Exiles were all over the Sharks from then on and Corbisiero came within a whisker of his first try of the season two minutes later.
It seemed only a matter of time before the hosts re-took the lead and a series of scrums on the Sale try-line made a penalty try appear imminent.
But just when it looked like the Sharks had ridden out the storm Garvey struck again in the 65th minute to put the Irish back in front, the lock collecting a magnificent cross-field kick from Humphreys to go over, the fly-half then converting for a 24-21 lead.
And the former Ulster stand-off sealed the game in the closing stages, slotting over his second penalty of the game to make it 27-21.
But the Exiles were not finished yet and Geraghty brought up the bonus point with two minutes left, racing clear for an interception score that Humphreys converted.
And there was still time for Sale to grab a consolation try in the final play of the game as Amesbury went over in the corner, Rob Miller holding his nerve to slot the conversion that gave his side a losing bonus point to take back up North.