A Josh Strauss score was definitive in a narrow 13-9 win for Sale Sharks as London Irish just fell short of a precious victory at the Madejski Stadium.
Scot Strauss went over in the first half as the visitors established a 10-0 lead that the home side struggled to claw back.
The Sharks win moved them into sixth place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table, with Irish now 12 points behind Worcester Warriors.
Man of the match
Faf de Klerk put in an action-packed performance that saw him always playing on the front foot, orchestrating the Sharks’ play and looking to move the ball quickly.
His hunger for a try of his own may not have been satiated but with seven points from the boot he contribution to the scoreboard was no less valuable as a result.
Try of the match
Coming in the 29th minute, Strauss – a constant bother to the Irish line – pounced on a loose ball for the all-important winning try.
Collecting the ball and darting through a gap in the Irish defence, Strauss helped Sharks to four valuable points.
Moment of the match
It may not have been decisive – but it could have been.
In the final ten minutes Irish turned the ball over and when Marc Jones was penalised for a professional foul Tommy Bell kicked the penalty to get his side within a try of the win.
But push as they might, Irish could not get the final score they so desperately craved.
What they said
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “The last few games London Irish have played they’ve only been beaten by three or four points and I thought it would be no different today so I’m delighted to get the win.
“Credit to them. They defended like dogs on their own line many times. We got on their line more often than not but couldn’t put it down. We were out of sync I thought and we didn’t play particularly well with the ball and I thought on days like today we could have put four or five tries against them.”
With his counterpart Nick Kennedy adding: “It’s disappointing because I thought there was some brilliant bits of play from us. Our defence was outstanding because we were under the pump for the majority of the first half.
“They were on our line for most of it and apart from that one try that slipped through I thought we held together really well.
“I thought we had a lot of legs left near the end and we were on the up but we just weren’t quick enough to move them and show our tenacity that I know we have.”
Social media reaction
Good win on the road. Thanks as always to the @SaleSharksRugby fans, great support and made the difference! #🦈⏰
— George Nott (@GeorgeNott1) February 10, 2018
Thank you to our supporters who were fantastic today and congratulations to @SaleSharksRugby 👏
— London Irish (@LiRFC) February 10, 2018
Well done Faf! Proud of you💪🙍😚
— Corrie de Klerk (@klerk_corrie) February 10, 2018
Final one from me tonight. 13 of @SaleSharksRugby squad today were homegrown. That’s some achievement👍
— Neil Leigh (@salesharksMEN) February 10, 2018