Match Stats - Fix Info
Match Page 2017-18 - Summary
A 21-point haul by England fly-half Charlie Hodgson did much of the damage, with his game-changing try from substitute Jonny Wilkinson’s second-half mistake ultimately putting the match to bed.
Wilkinson had the chance to make amends but missed a conversion with the last kick of the game to ensure Sale took the points.
Off the pitch, however, Sale have put themselves on a collision course with the sport’s hierarchy by playing four of their British & Irish Lions contingent for the entire encounter.
According to RFU regulations, which say Lions players from England’s Elite Squad should not play more than 40 minutes at one time within 11 weeks of the tour to New Zealand, Hodgson, Mark Cueto, Andrew Sheridan and Jason Robinson were not entitled to play against Newcastle tonight.
But having been given permission by Sale owner Brian Kennedy, director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre chose to select the quartet from the start.
With the RFU set to assess the situation on Monday, the club could face sanctions – including the possibility of docked points or the imposition of a fine.
On the pitch, Sale began unconvincingly but helped by an imperious debut performance by summer signing Daniel Larrechea at full-back, they grew in stature and ultimately deserved their victory.
Hodgson opened the scoring with a 40-metre penalty but the Falcons hit back almost immediately with the game’s first try in the 19th minute.
Cueto was unluckily adjudged to have knocked on and from the scrum, the ball was spun out across the backs and ended up in the hands of Australian full-back Matthew Burke, who crashed over despite the best efforts of Robinson.
Hodgson and Walder exchanged penalty misses before the Sharks went back in front with a sublime score in the 34th minute.
Cueto was inevitably the try scorer, finishing off with trademark authority in the right corner, but it owed much to skill and dexterity of Jason White – another Sale Lion – and debutant Elvis Sevealai’i.
However, the half-time introduction of Wilkinson had an immediate effect and good scavenging work by the England captain laid the platform for winger Anthony Elliott to fly over on the right flank three minutes after the restart.
Wilkinson converted to give Newcastle a 14-10 lead but two Hodgson penalties quickly put the hosts back in front.
Wilkinson replied with a three-pointer of his own as a see-saw battle took another twist.
But a hideous Wilkinson handling error on halfway allowed Hodgson to collect and leave his England rival for dead as he scurried over to score under the posts.
White then received a yellow card for an infringement in a ruck, leaving Sale to play the final 10 minutes with 14 men.
Another Hodgson penalty edged them closer but Wilkinson’s skewed drop-goal closed the gap to six points.
Late Falcons pressure, however, saw Elliott go over in the corner but Wilkinson missed the conversion to give Sale the win by the narrowest of margins.