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MacLeod bites to get Sharks off the mark MacLeod bites to get Sharks off the mark

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MacLeod bites to get Sharks off the mark

Sale opened the new Aviva Premiership season Rugby with a comprehensive win over Newcastle at Edgeley Park to mark head coach Mike Brewer’s first game in charge in fine style.

The former New Zealand flanker saw tries from debutants Karena Wihongi and winger Tom Brady, plus four penalties and two conversions from fly-half Nick Macleod, help his side establish a 26-13 interval lead.

The Falcons had notched the game's first try through Brent Wilson with former Munster fly-half Jeremy Manning booting eight points. A further two penalties from Macleod, who ended with 22 points, plus a drop goal from Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel completed a dominant display from the Sharks before Newcastle got a late consolation through Wilson's second try.

Both these sides finished in the bottom four last term but the Sharks suggested they may have the power to head up the table as the power of their ball-carriers gave them an excellent platform to put tempo into their attacks, while Peel and Macleod were excellent at half-back. The same could not be said of their battered visitors.

Sale made a confident start as Ben Cohen caught Macleod's kick-off to set up an attack that yielded a penalty, knocked over by fly-half Macleod with barely a minute on the clock. But the lead was short-lived as Paul Williams obstructed at the restart and Manning quickly levelled the scores.

Sale looked sharp in attack with props Andrew Sheridan and Wihongi carrying purposefully, and it paid dividends as two penalties in quick succession from Macleod gave the hosts a 9-3 lead in the 12th minute, although referee Dean Richards failed to spot a knock-on by Sharks flanker David Seymour in the build-up to the second of those three-pointers.

Manning then hit the post with a penalty attempt of his own but a good chase saw centre Kyle Tonetti bundled back over his own line and, from the resulting scrum, a close-range rumble by the Falcons saw flanker Wilson crash over for a try, converted by Manning.

Sale continued to build pressure as they ran through the phases with Peel threatening around the fringes and, after Macleod had fallen short with an ambitious long-range penalty, they retook the lead after more fluent attacking play. Young wing Brady made the initial break with Wihongi finishing off by burrowing over. Macleod converted for a 16-10 lead.

And that was soon extended by a lovely score as Tonetti made a half-break and Macleod's well-weighted chip allowed Brady to become the second Sale man to cross the whitewash on debut. Macleod added the extras and a fourth penalty shortly after for a 26-10 lead that fully reflected Sale's dominance.

Manning cut the lead with his second three-pointer just before the interval but the Falcons had plenty to ponder at the break.

Newcastle boss Alan Tait sent Jimmy Gopperth on for Manning at the start of the second half with his side in desperate need of some inspiration, but the pattern of the game remained the same as yet more Sale pressure allowed Macleod to add his fifth penalty of the night.

Peel and Macleod then swapped roles as the fly-half set up his number nine for a drop goal as Sale moved further away from their struggling visitors.

Ill-discipline continued to cost Newcastle as Macleod made it 35-13 in the 59th minute with another penalty, although Sale then lost replacement scrum-half Chris Leck to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle just seconds after entering the fray.

And Newcastle capitalised as, after sustained pressure, Wilson powered over in the corner with eight minutes remaining for a score which was merely a consolation.

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