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Sale keep top-four hopes alive with hard-fought win over Newcastle

By PA
Press Association

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Sale kept their Gallagher Premiership top-four hopes just about alive with a 35-27 bonus-point win over Newcastle.

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The Heineken Cup quarter-finalists deservedly ended their run of three straight home defeats in all competitions, scoring five tries along the way, but the Falcons were right in contention until the final quarter-of-an-hour.

The visitors led at the interval, but Alex Sanderson’s men rallied impressively in the second period on their way to a 10th Premiership win of the season.

The match got off to something of a cagey start at a sun-drenched AJ Bell Stadium with numerous big kicks exchanged before the Falcons started to exert the first real pressure.

After a couple of line-out attempts, the visitors helped George McGuigan crash over in the corner after nine minutes.

The hosts were guilty of some slack handling in those early exchanges, though the Falcons failed to capitalise.

The Sharks got themselves back on terms after 18 minutes.

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Making the most of a five-metre line-out, a rolling maul helped push the ball out to Akker van der Merwe, and he stormed over the line, while Rob du Preez was precise in adding the extras from wide out.

With the momentum swinging from end to end, it was the visitors who struck next when Joel Hodgson latched on to a swift pass from Will Welch before darting over unopposed.

Hodgson then aimed a terrific conversion through the posts from the touchline to make it 12-7 to the Falcons.

Such was the quick flow of the game, Sale replied within minutes as Van der Merwe charged past a tackle before diving over out wide, with Du Preez’s superb kick making it 14-12 the hosts.

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On the stroke of half-time, Hodgson popped over an easy penalty attempt to turn the tables again and give the Falcons a 15-14 lead at the break.

But the Sharks were straight onto the front foot early in the second period, and barely three minutes had passed when Ben Curry crashed over for a reviewed try as he celebrated his return to action in fine style.

Du Preez’s routine kick made it 21-15, but back came the gutsy Falcons, with Mateo Carreras dodging Faf de Klerk before diving over to drag it back to 21-20.

Sale’s bonus-point score came with 25 minutes left.

Simon Hammersley coasted over after meeting fellow replacement Gus Warr’s sharp pass inside, with Du Preez’s kick putting the Sharks 28-20 ahead.

The hosts belatedly grabbed themselves some breathing space as the final 10 minutes approached courtesy of replacement Ewan Ashman’s converted try.

Matias Orlando claimed a bonus point for the Falcons with a try in the dying seconds, but some solid defensive work from the Sharks ahead of that had ensured that by then the victory was not in doubt.

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