Sale salvage bonus point in defeat
April 22, 2011
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Sale Sharks were beaten 30-24 by the Exeter Chiefs at Edgeley Park on Friday afternoon, but Charlie Hodgson's last-gasp conversion secured a crucial losing bonus point for the hosts to effectively ensure their Premiership survival.
The two sides reached the interval locked together at ten points apiece, with Sale centre Chris Bell having cancelled out Nic Sestaret's 23rd-minute touchdown for the visitors. A penalty from Chiefs fly-half Ignacio Mieres - his second of the game - and a try from Matt Jess saw Exeter pull ten points clear for the second time in the game, early in the second half.
Wame Lewaravu kept Sale in the hunt but Tom Hayes crashed over with two minutes to go to seal Exeter's victory. However, Will Addison crossed in the dying seconds and Hodgson, in his last home game before his summer switch to Saracens, added the extras with the last kick of the game to earn his side a point which moved them ten clear of the drop.
Exeter looked the more potent early on and deserved the advantage given to them by a Mieres penalty. They extended their lead when, after numerous phases of pressure on the Sharks' 22, the home side's resistance finally cracked and good hands allowed centre Phil Dollman to draw the defender and offload to winger Sestaret.
Mieres converted but the Sharks hit back with some inventive play of their own. They were rewarded through a Hodgson penalty and the fly-half then helped level the scores at 10-10 with seven minutes to go until half-time. Hodgson spotted an opportunity on the shortside before a neat pass from centre Andy Tuilagi put 18-year-old winger Addison into space, and his wonderful offload gave Bell an easy run to line.
Sale wing Will Addison steps away from Tom Johnson during Friday's game at Edgeley Park © Getty Images
Hodgson added the extras and almost put the hosts in front on the stroke of half-time when he charged down Mieres' drop-goal attempt, but the ball failed to bounce for him.
Despite the return of England prop Andrew Sheridan, Sale's scrum struggled and a set-piece infringement allowed Mieres to regain Exeter's lead. Eifion Lewis-Roberts was brought on to shore up the front row in his final appearance before joining French side Toulon. However, it had little influence as it was the Chiefs who scored next. A mistake from Bell meant winger Jess could sprint clear for a converted try.
With just under 15 minutes to go, Sale gave themselves a lifeline when Lewaravu powered over, Hodgson converting. But substitute stand-off Gareth Steenson kicked a penalty before Hayes scampered over to seal the win despite Addison's late score.
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