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Match Report: London Irish 15 Sale Sharks 30

02 Apr 2016
Match Report: London Irish 15 Sale Sharks 30

Two late tries saw Sale Sharks streak away from hosts London Irish in the second half to keep their Aviva Premiership Rugby top-six aspirations very much alive.

Mike Haley’s score late in the first half earned Sale a slender half-time advantage, with the Exiles not taking their chances after Sean Maitland’s early try – Greig Tonks missing three times from the tee.

Johnny Williams’ try did reduce the deficit to just one point after Danny Cipriani had kicked his third penalty of the game, but late tries from TJ Ioane and then Cipriani himself – who notched up 20 points in total – saw Sale to their second win on the bounce.

Cipriani got the game underway and put the visitors ahead with a seventh-minute penalty. The Sharks looked good in the game’s opening exchanges and when Irish went off their feet the fly-half made no mistake from the tee.

But Tonks gave the home fans something to cheer about with an immediate reply, with a great scrum from the Exiles forcing the penalty from Sale’s front row.

The Sharks stayed in the ascendancy and continued to attack, and could have scored through Cameron Neild who knocked on from Sam Tuitupou’s offload.

But it was the hosts who notched up the game’s opening score, with a brilliantly worked move that saw scrum-half Scott Steele feed Maitland who went under the posts, with Ofisa Treviranus also involved in the build-up.

Tonks had left his kicking boots at home however, somehow missing the conversion from in front of the posts after slicing a penalty attempt wide two minutes beforehand, so the score stayed at 8-3.

Will Addison’s stunning break saw Sale hit back and advance up the pitch, and Cipriani reduced the deficit to two on 26 minutes after Williams was pinged for not rolling away.

Sale were given a huge let off a couple of minutes later, as Irish went over for a score but were adjudged to have thrown a forward pass in the build-up, and then Tonks missed another penalty attempt when the Sharks were offside.

And the Exiles were made to pay by Haley, who scored for the visitors just before half time following an overlap, with Cipriani adding the extras to make it 13-8 at the interval.

A frantic start to the second half saw Neville Edwards make a break, before Irish forced the turnover and chipped the ball back up the pitch, only for Andrew Fenby to knock on.

Sale forced a couple of penalties and Cipriani expertly kicked them to the corner, but phenomenal maul defence from the hosts earned them a turnover.

Irish lacked the continuity in attack that they had in the first half, and continued to absorb all the pressure, with Cipriani eventually stretching the lead after Irish were penalised for not releasing.

But on 65 minutes Williams dived over the whitewash against the run of play, and Tonks ensured there would be a grandstand final 15 minutes with his conversion from the touchline making it a one-point contest.

Peter Stringer looked to set up replacement Tom Brady with a chip through four minutes later, but the winger could not hold on to it and the hosts were awarded the scrum.

But it was Ioane who made the crucial breakthrough for Sale on 72 minutes, diving over the line and placing the ball at the base of the posts.

And after adding another conversion to his tally, Cipriani put the icing on the cake for Sale as he intercepted an errant Irish pass to run in under the posts and make sure of the victory with three minutes remaining.

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