Tries from Tom Brady and David Seymour saw Sale Sharks overcome London Irish 15-3 at the AJ Bell Stadium, propelling them into the top six of the Aviva Premiership in the process.
The effect the wind and the rain in Salford was going to have in the game was evident from the start as Danny Cipriani’s kick-off flew straight out – in front of the watching eyes of England head coach Stuart Lancaster.
But the Sale fly-half recovered to set up his side’s first try of the night as his cross-field kick found winger Brady who dotted down.
The Sharks added another try before the interval through flanker Seymour and comfortably saw the game out in the second half, the Exiles managing just one Ian Humphreys penalty to show for the long trip north.
Moments after the kick-off had gone so wrong for Cipriani he had a chance to make amends with a penalty after London Irish were pinged at a scrum, but the wind once again played its part as the effort sailed wide.
However Cipriani did get a kick right on 18 minutes as he set up Brady for the first try of the game.
The fly-half booted the ball into the left corner and just when it looked like his former Melbourne Rebels team-mate James O’Connor would gather, the ball popped up over the Australian’s head and into the grateful arms of Brady who ran in unopposed.
Cipriani finally got it right from the tee as well and the home side had a 7-0 lead.
And after ten minutes of sustained pressure that lead was stretched when Seymour barged over after a lineout close to the Exiles’ try-line.
Right before half-time Cipriani – who failed to convert the Seymour score – had another shot at goal with a long-range penalty but it again flew wide as Sale had to settle for a 12-0 lead at the break.
The fly-half’s trouble from the tee continued after the restart as he once again missed a three-pointer.
But he wasn’t made to pay as Sale continued to dominate, the home side looking likely to grab a third try only for Phil Mackenzie and Michael Paterson to lose their footing in quick succession.
After London Irish were pinged at a scrum Cipriani did find the target from the tee to stretch Sale’s lead to 15 points.
And things went from bad to worse for the visitors on 50 minutes as Chris Hala’ufia was sin-binned for a tip tackle.
Despite being down to 14 men London Irish held firm and didn’t concede any more points. But they also failed to trouble the scoreboard going the other way too, that was until Humphreys knocked over a penalty on 68 minutes.
However this was as good as it got for London Irish as they remain second from bottom in the Aviva Premiership table as Sale Sharks comfortably saw the game out.