London Irish 33-33 Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership
Sale claim late draw against Irish
March 31, 2013
The Exiles and the Sharks played out a thriller%]
A late Nick MacLeod penalty salvaged a 33-33 draw for Sale against London Irish, which boosted both side's chances of Premiership survival.
Guy Armitage, Halani Aulika and Max Lahiff got the tries for the home side, with fullback Tom Homer contributing 18 points with the boot. Sale registered tries through Henry Thomas, Mark Cueto, Kearnan Myall and James Gaskell to pick up a valuable additional bonus point for the visitors, with Macleod adding a 13-point haul, including his crucial final effort.
Irish are now 12 points clear of bottom side London Welsh and are closing in on safety despite failing to see out the win. Sale will have to sweat a little longer after relinquishing the 10-point lead they held early in the second half. But the three points accumulated in Reading put the Sharks eight ahead of Welsh with just three games remaining.
Sale's hopes of giving themselves breathing space at the foot of the table had looked in severe jeopardy when they conceded two tries inside the first ten minutes. Poor defence was to blame for both scores as Sailosi Tagicakibau easily fended off three week tackles to set the platform for Armitage to bundle his way over.
Macleod got Sale on the board with a penalty but more awful tackling allowed Ofisa Treviranus to break and prop Aulika to race clear, treating Charlie Amesbury like a rag doll on his way to the line. Sale got themselves back in it at the end of the first quarter.
Exiles hooker David Paice was sin-binned for illegally slowing a promising Sale attack, and the Sharks mauled their way over for Thomas to score after kicking the resulting penalty to touch. Treviranus' ability to break tackles round the fringes was causing Sale all manner of problems, and Homer wasted another scything break from the Samoan by kicking away possession.
Sale punished the error, with Sam Tuitupou and Cameron Shepherd breaking into the Irish 22 to set up Cueto for his 77th Premiership try, Macleod missed the conversion, while Homer was on target with two penalties in the final minutes of the half to put the hosts 20-15 to the good. But they could not hold their lead until the interval.
Homer failed to gather Tuitupou's kick through, and Johnny Leota was hauled down just short after picking up the loose ball. Irish were left short-staffed in defence and Myall finished off a simple overlap, with Macleod converting.
Macleod slotted a penalty shortly after the break before more shambolic defending allowed Sale to further increase their lead. Amesbury ripped the ball from Tagicakibau's clutches and linked well with Daniel Braid in the shadow of the posts. The ball was moved left and Gaskell somehow escaped the clutches of Matt Garvey and Jonathon Fisher to crash over the line.
Having trailed by 11 early on, Sale now led by 10. But like Irish before them they could not hold on to their advantage. The Exiles hit back when prop Lahiff burrowed over near the posts. Television Match Official Graham Hughes was called upon by referee Greg Garner, and confirmed the try even though replays did not appear to conclusively show the ball being grounded. Homer added the extras and slotted two further penalties to give Irish a three-point lead with time running out.
Macleod was off target with an effort to tie the scores, but held his nerve when the hosts infringed in the dying seconds to earn Sale a share of the spoils.
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