Sale snatch potentially crucial London Irish draw

Nick Macleod kicked a late penalty for Sale Sharks to earn them a potentially crucial 33-all draw in the Aviva Premiership at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Despite their lowly league positions, both sides arrived at the Madejski Stadium
on Easter Sunday in good form and proved it handsomely, running in seven tries
in a wild encounter.

Nick Macleod’s 79th-minute ultimately settled the contest as Sale moved eight
point clear of bottom side London Welsh with only three games remaining.

Irish came into the game knowing that a win would more or less ensure their
safety from relegation, spurred on by a succession of impressive home victories
against Saracens, Wasps and Worcester in recent weeks.

An early charge-down by Matt Garvey kept Sale pinned into their own 22 and
the Exiles struck from the resulting lineout, returning wing Sailosi Tagicakibau
scything through the midfield before Guy Armitage burrowed over from close range.

Sale responded with a penalty from Macleod after a bright burst upfield from
Charlie Amesbury, but the Sale winger was left on his back as Irish tighthead
prop Halani Aulika barged his way through for Irish’s second try from 40 metres
out, his ninth try of the season.

The visitors hit back with a surge upfield through Sam Tuitupou and prop Al
Dickinson, Irish hooker David Paice committing a professional foul and being
sent to the sin-bin as a result.

From the resulting lineout the Sharks powered over through highly-rated prop
Henry Thomas, who snuck under the tackle of Bryn Evans to bring Sale back into
the match.

Quick ball for Sale lead to the Sharks second try shortly after, an initial
snipe from Dwayne Peel leaving Irish back-pedalling before Tuitupou caused confusion,
creating the platform for the all-time leading Premiership try scorer Mark Cueto
to step his way over the line and hand Sale a 14-15 lead.

Two penalties from Tom Homer has Irish back in front, before the full-back
produced a colossal handling error to hand Sale possession in the Irish 22.
Desperate defence from the hosts left space out wide for lock Kearnan Myall
to gallop over for the visitors, Sale heading into the break leading 20-22.

Macleod opening the scoring in the second-half with a long-range penalty to
stretch Sale’s lead, before the rampant Sharks sealed the try bonus point, Tagicakibau
stripped of possession by Amesbury who cantered down the right wing – Sale then
switching the ball left for James Gaskell to cross in the left corner.

Irish twice threatened the Sale line thanks to breaks from Allinson and Marland
Yarde, but both times the Sharks recovered to prevent the score and maintain
their ten-point lead.

The Exiles however did find their way to the line minutes later, Max Lahiff
burrowing over for Irish’s third try after confirmation from the TMO.

Another long-range Homer penalty then drew Irish level at 30-30 for a scoreline
more common in Super Rugby than the Premiership heading into the final quarter.

A sustained period of Sale pressure in the Irish 22 was eventually halted by
a penalty at the breakdown and Irish countered – Armitage speeding his way upfield
but unable to create the space for Yarde to finish off the move.

Homer’s fourth penalty sent Irish into a 33-30 lead with 15 minutes remaining
as Sale failed to capitalise on periods of sustained pressure.

Macleod had a crucial penalty opportunity to tie the game with only four minutes
remaining but Sale continued to apply the pressure, a scrum in midfield just
outside the Irish 22 handing them an excellent platform.

Another penalty chance came Sale’s way with just a minute left on the clock
which Macleod stroked over for to e

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