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Sharks hold off Leeds to keep up good start Sharks hold off Leeds to keep up good start

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Sharks hold off Leeds to keep up good start

Sale Sharks withstood a second-half rally from Leeds Carnegie to maintain their 100 per cent start to the LV= Cup.

Sean Cox and Rhys Crane scored first-half tries and Matty James kicked 13 points as Sale built on their superb victory over London Irish last week. Leeds, who twice got to within a converted try of victory thanks to second-half scores from Scott Barrow and Scott Mathie, have still to win in domestic competition this season, a sequence that now stands at nine games.

Leeds started the brighter and were rewarded for the hard yards they gained through the middle with a simple penalty for fly-half Christian Lewis-Pratt on seven minutes. Sale's cause was not helped when their Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel limped off after just 10 minutes and immediately reached for the ice pack to soothe a troublesome groin injury.

The visitors began to take charge with fly-half James dictating play. It was his pass that released Fergus Mulchrone through the centre but his dash to the line was halted by Michael Stephenson. They got their reward though on 17 minutes, when from an attacking lineout, Sharks captain Cox was driven over at the back of a maul.

Sale extended their advantage to 14-3 when Leeds hooker James Parkes – playing his first game since April 2008 due to Andy Titterrell's knee ligament injury and Steve Thompson's England responsibilities – fumbled in midfield, allowing Crane to gather and sprint for the line.

James converted both to build a healthy lead which would have been cut to just five points had 20-year-old Lewis-Pratt not shown his inexperience by missing two straightforward kicks at goal.

James proved more accurate with a long-range penalty before the break but a more purposeful Leeds struck back at the start of the second half when Barrow charged down Will Addison's kick to score. Lewis-Pratt converted to cut the deficit to seven.

Sale then had to withstand considerable pressure from the home side as scrum-half Warren Fury orchestrated a host of attacks, with Leeds captain Marco Wentzel instrumental. But the pressure was alleviated with another James penalty and a bulldozing break down the middle by centre Iain Thornley.

Another James penalty gave Sale further breathing space but Leeds were not done as Peter Wackett stormed through the centre and after being held up at the line, played in the supporting Mathie to score. Replacement fly-half Ceiron Thomas kicked the conversion but Sale held on.

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