The Newcastle Falcons made a brilliant start to the new season, running in four tries to win 33-12 against a Sale side that were outplayed when facing the wind and could take little advantage with it at their backs.
Newcastle peppered the Sale 22 with delicate chips to touch in the opening minutes and were rewarded when the visitors knocked on from the lineout, and Toby Flood put over the penalty for failure to release at the subsequent ruck.
With a considerable wind advantage the Falcons continued with the tactic, and when Sale repeated the offence Flood again took advantage to make it 6-0 after 11 minutes.
It took Sale almost 20 minutes to get over the halfway line but they made it count when after some probing in each direction, winger Steve Hanley cut loose down the left to draw in the defender and send in Ben Foden for a try, although Charlie Hodgson was off target with the conversion attempt.
Sale were then penned in their own half until the break, and needed some resolute defence to keep out the home backs. Flood was off-target with two more penalty attempts as the Falcons kept up the pressure and there were just two minutes remaining when the breakthrough was finally achieved.
Flood kicked speculatively for touch but miscued, and Tom May raised through to beat Hanley to the touch for an unconverted try and at the interval the Falcons led by 11 points to five.
Newcastle ran in a second try five minutes into the new half and again the boot of Flood was involved. The fly-half lofted an up-and-under which was secured in great style by Ollie Phillips who released Mark Mayerhofler to score under the posts with Flood adding the conversion.
With three-quarter time approaching Sale hit back in a rare attack when they appeared to be harmlessly moving it along the line when Lee Thomas sudden found a gap and shrugged off two defenders to score under the posts, Hodgson converting to make it 18-12.
Sale’s replacement number eight Chris Jones was then sin-binned and in his absence the Newcastle pack drove over for James Grindal to touch down with Flood again on the mark.
Two minutes later some slick handling in the Sale 22 saw Phillips the Newcastle winger jink through for a fourth and bonus point-gaining try and Flood’s conversion gave the home side a 30-12 lead with time running out.
The Falcons continued to press into the closing stages and Flood put the seal on a fine individual performance with a well-taken drop goal to make it a resounding 33-12 victory.