Exeter see off Sharks
November 27, 2010
Exeter's Tom Johnson crashes into two tackles
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Exeter Chiefs made it three victories on the bounce in the Aviva Premiership by defeating Sale Sharks 24-19 at Sandy Park on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors took an early lead after a quick tap penalty, with wing Ben Cohen leading the charge, and from the second penalty the Sharks skipper Nick Macleod stepped up to slot the ball between the uprights. The Sharks were then forced to defend their line and they strayed offside just inside their own 22 and fly-half Ryan Davis, kicking into the strong wind, levelled the scores from the right of the posts.
The home side reclaimed the lead after a penalty kick to touch. The ball was won and the pack, and a couple of the backs, drove the 15 metres to score by the posts, with prop Chris Budgen claiming the touchdown.
Davies adding the extras before Sharks missed an opportunity to reduce the arrears when Macleod was just off-target with his 40-metre penalty from close to the right touchline. But Macleod found the target 10 minutes before the break with a 55-metre kick, 10 metres in from the left touchline, although the decision left everyone in the crowd bemused as referee Andrew Small awarded the points.
Macleod added his third penalty from 35 metres to reduce the Sharks deficit to one point but then Exeter went on the attack. However, a second penalty from Davies hit the near upright to leave the Chiefs 10-9 ahead at the break.
Exeter had the perfect start to the second half, initially turning down the chance of a long-range penalty and deciding to kick for touch and go in search of the seven points. The decision paid off when the ball was worked across field and the forwards then set up another drive, which ended with blindside flanker Tom Johnson coming up with the ball and Davies added the touchline conversion.
Sale hit back immediately with Mathew Tait giving the pass to wing Rhys Crane, who squeezed into the corner with Macleod converting from out wide to claw to within a point of the Chiefs.
Exeter were quickly back close to the Sharks line to mount a series of pick-and-goes, only to run into a wall of white shirts before the home side worked the ball wide. Centre Phil Dollman sold a dummy before giving the pass to wing Andrew Higgins to score his first try for the Chiefs, with the conversion from Davies this time bouncing off the upright over the bar.
The Chiefs applied tremendous pressure on the Sale line but the visitors defended solidly in an attempt to stop the home side scoring the bonus-point try until they were awarded a penalty and could clear their line.
Both sides mounted further attacks but both sides were forced to defend the lines. It was Sale who took control of the final minutes as Macleod slotted his fourth penalty, leaving them within a score at the final whistle.
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