Faf shines as Sale Sharks hold off Gloucester fightback
In an entertaining encounter, the Sharks went into the break 19-12 ahead thanks to tries from Faf De Klerk, AJ MacGinty and JP Du Preez.
The Cherry and Whites remained in contention, however, as Santiago Socino touched down twice, but the game appeared to be slipping away when Jean-Luc Du Preez crossed the whitewash for the hosts.
Having endured a nightmare first half in last week’s clash against Exeter Chiefs, the Sharks were determined to put that right.
In windy conditions, they controlled the aerial battle early on, with Arron Reed always a threat running on to De Klerk’s box-kicks, and they deservedly took the lead.
It was the scrum-half who went over but most of the good work was done by Dan Du Preez after the number eight charged through the middle and sent his fellow Springbok across the whitewash.
Unperturbed by that setback, the Cherry and Whites hit back with their first real foray into opposition territory. The hosts conceded a string of penalties and that allowed the visitors to build using their trusty maul.
Their lineout drive has been a potent weapon all season and the Sharks were powerless to stop it as Socino crossed the whitewash.
George Barton’s conversion gave George Skivington’s men the lead but they did not hold onto it for long as the home side regained their five-point buffer.
Sale got quick ball close to the Gloucester line and eventually MacGinty went over to provide his side with a 10-7 advantage.
The fly-half was injured in the process of scoring, however, meaning that De Klerk took on kicking duties, but the South African made no mistake from the tee.
Gloucester had struggled for territory and possession but they are a resilient and clinical outfit and once more they responded when an opportunity presented itself.
Again it was the maul that did the damage as Socino completed his brace to level matters after half-an-hour.
It was proving to be a see-saw first half and just shy of the interval the Sharks had the lead for the third time when JP Du Preez touched down to move them 19-12 ahead at the break.
The Sharks took that momentum into the second period when they secured the bonus point. Luke James made the initial incursion before replacement Sam Hill took it on further and Jean-Luc Du Preez eventually finished off a fine attack.
Alex Sanderson’s men were the dominant outfit and were pressing for the try that would surely end the game as a contest, but an utterly brainless De Klerk pass – and a brilliant read from Chapman – saw the Gloucester man intercept and run the distance to get his team back into the contest.
It almost changed the course of the match as a few minutes later the Cherry and Whites were just two points in arrears when Hillman-Cooper crossed the whitewash and Barton converted.
But to Sale’s credit, they managed the latter stages well and duly claimed a priceless victory in the hunt for the play-offs.
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