Sale’s South Africa connection played a key role as the Sharks got their Gallagher Premiership campaign back on track with a 21-13 victory over London Irish.
In the first rugby match to be played in front of a crowd at Irish’s Brentford Community Stadium, tries from Rohan Janse Van Rensburg and Akker Van Der Merwe ultimately ensured the fans went home disappointed.
Having failed to see the game out at Newcastle last week, Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond will have been pleased with how his side squeezed the life out of their opponents in the second half.
They may have felt they needed to win this match twice, though, after Curtis Rona had rounded off an excellent move to bring the hosts level at 13-13 at half-time.
It was Sale who claimed the first points of the match in the 10th minute when AJ MacGinty knocked over a penalty from around 30 metres out.
The visitors did most of the attacking and they had their reward after 24 minutes thanks to some typically quick thinking from South Africa scrum-half Faf De Klerk.
The World Cup winner chose a tap penalty and quickly passed to Van Rensburg, who powered his way over. MacGinty added the conversion.
Paddy Jackson’s penalty then put the Exiles on the board, but MacGinty took the lead back out to 10 points after Rona infringed at the breakdown.
Irish again managed to get themselves back within a score through a second penalty from Jackson, but they then survived a big scare
Nick Phipps’ kick was charged down by Matt Postlethwaite and the lock stretched for the line after being tackled by the former Wallaby, but the TMO showed him to have knocked on in doing so.
The Exiles then struck off the final play of the half when Jackson made a lovely break down the right and timed his pass to give Rona a simple finish, with Jackson’s conversion levelling the score at the break.
Parity did not last long, however, as Van Der Merwe restored Sale’s lead three minutes after the restart by bundling his way over off the back of a driving maul.
MacGinty could not add the extras, but Jackson was unable to reduce the gap to two points when he sent a difficult penalty from long range wide.
Simon Hammersley came within inches of adding a third try for the Sharks when he was tackled just short out on the left, but Irish were soon penalised for offside, giving MacGinty an easy three points.
Now eight points behind, the hosts had to chase the game, but Sale’s defence did not budge an inch as the Sharks secured an away win.
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