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Macleod kicks Sharks up to third Macleod kicks Sharks up to third

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Macleod kicks Sharks up to third

26 Dec 2011
Macleod kicks Sharks up to third

Nick Macleod won the kicking battle as Sale beat Newcastle to return to the Aviva Premiership Rugby play-off positions and leave their opponents at the foot of the table.

Sale had taken a 16-0 lead after 24 minutes through three Macleod penalties and a converted Tom Brady try, but Newcastle mounted a comeback.

After Macleod and Jimmy Gopperth had traded further three-pointers, substitute Jeremy Manning went over to reduce the gap to 19-10 at half-time. Gopperth continued to boot the Falcons back into the game and narrowed the gap to three points before England wing Mark Cueto touched down to effectively seal the win.

The Sharks have arguably been Aviva Premiership Rugby's surprise package this season by playing with endeavour and pace, and that was perfectly illustrated in the opening moments.

Despite Newcastle having most of the early play, it was Sale who drew first blood through Brady. Corne Uys' departure had already caused a back line reshuffle when the youngster took advantage of the Falcons' midfield confusion. And after receiving a static pass from Dwayne Peel, the winger broke the gain line before darting fully 60 metres to touchdown for a superb individual score.

Macleod added the extras before kicking a superb long-range penalty to open up an early 10-point lead after eight minutes.

Newcastle continued to have most of the territory but it was Sale who were taking advantage of the visitors' poor discipline. From a scrum penalty, an area of weakness for the Sharks in the previous couple of seasons, Macleod slotted his second three-pointer. He then added another from the tee before Newcastle eventually got on the board.

Recent signing Suka Hufanga's scything break into the hosts' 22 was unceremoniously ended by a high tackle. And Gopperth kicked the resulting opportunity, but the Kiwi's opposite number responded immediately with his fourth penalty.

To their credit, the Falcons continued to press and were rewarded when Manning barrelled through three would-be tacklers to score in the corner. Gopperth scuffed the conversion but it managed to sneak between the uprights as they deservedly got themselves back into the game at the break.

The second period continued in the same vein as the first with Sale attempting to play from deep, and it nearly paid off when James Gaskell off-loaded to prop Alasdair Dickinson, but the move broke down in the opposing 22.

However, the Falcons carried on their impressive recovery when Gopperth kicked his second penalty. Another one followed as the Sharks were seemingly starting to do what they did against Exeter and concede a sizeable lead.

But naivety from Newcastle on their own put in at the scrum saw Sale steal the ball and feed it out to Cueto who showed excellent footballing skills to touch down.

Gopperth reduced the arrears with a penalty, but Macleod added another to seal the win and leave Newcastle in perilous danger at the foot of the table.

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