Newcastle Falcons stole a sensational Gallagher Premiership victory over northern rivals Sale Sharks, Toby Flood scoring with the last play in Friday’s Kingston Park clash.
His side had led 10-0 at the break, Cobus Wiese’s try 10 minutes from time giving them one last shot in a game with limited line-breaks.
The Falcons started with their tails up and had a 3-0 lead as early as the sixth minute when a sustained period of red-zone pressure saw Brett Connon chipping over a simple penalty from in front – earlier runs from Gary Graham and Logovi’i Mulipola having helped earn them prime field position.
Neither side seemed to want to be caught in possession in the middle third as boot-on-ball punctuated proceedings, but the hosts showed some attacking ambition when Michael Young worked a short-side play to Ben Stevenson down the left.
On that occasion it did not turn into points, and the same was true on 20 minutes when Connon’s penalty from the left touchline was just wide of the uprights following a Sharks obstruction in pursuit of an up-and-under.
A jackal turnover from Connor Collett and a well-placed downfield kick from skipper Michael Young earned the Falcons a penalty five metres from the Sale line, George McGuigan’s short tap seeing the hooker knock on as he dived for the line under a heap of bodies.
But the weight of home pressure had to tell, a sequence of close-range penalties eventually seeing Sean Robinson grounding from a pick-and-go down the left-hand side, Connon adding the extras for a 10-0 half-time lead.
A cagey start to the second half from both sides saw Sale landing the first blow via an AJ MacGinty penalty from the left out on the 22, Newcastle caught in possession trying to run the ball from deep after a bout of kick-tennis.
The American doubled his and his side’s tally on 52 minutes with a 40-metre penalty from a ruck infringement, the Falcons entering the last quarter with a 10-6 lead in a game lacking in cohesive handling play.
One of the few try-scoring opportunities for either sent went begging for Sale 10 minutes from time when they kicked a penalty to the corner only for the Falcons to steal the line-out, but they finally grabbed the lead on 71 minutes when lock Cobus Wiese scored in the right corner from a two-on-one.
Newcastle had chances to win the game with a succession of penalties and line-outs in the Sale 22, but it took a moment of brilliance with the last play as Flood grounded Young’s kick in the right corner to seal a memorable result.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan (Pete Lucock, 70), 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon (Joel Hodgson, 58), 9 Michael Young (captain); 1 Trevor Davison (Adam Brocklebank, 73), 2 George McGuigan, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola (Mark Tampin, 73), 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Marco Fuser (Darren Barry, 73), 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Connor Collett (Josh Basham, 73), 8 Gary Graham.
Scorers – Tries: Sean Robinson, Toby Flood. Conversions: Brett Connon. Penalties: Brett Connon.
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Denny Solomona (Marland Yarde, 60), 13 Sam James, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Rob du Preez, 60), 11 Simon Hammersley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf De Klerk; 1 Valerey Morozov (Bevan Rodd, 60), 2 Akker van der Merwe, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen (Jake Cooper-Woolley, 60), 4 Cobus Wiese, 5 James Phillips, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Ben Curry (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez.
Scorers – Tries: Cobus Wiese. Conversions: AJ MacGinty. Penalties: AJ MacGinty 2.
Referee: Wayne Barnes.
Penny, Radwan, Burrell, Flood, Stevenson, Connon, Young, Davison, McGuigan, Mulipola, Peterson, Fuser, Robinson, Collett, Graham
Replacements Blamire, Brocklebank, Tampin, Barry, Basham, Stuart, Hodgson, Lucock
James, Solomona, James, Janse van Rensburg, Hammersley, MacGinty, de Klerk, Morozov, van der Merwe, Oosthuizen, Wiese, Phillips, du Preez, Curry, du Preez
Replacements Langdon, Rodd, Cooper-Woolley, Postlethwaite, Dugdale, Cliff, du Preez, Yarde
referee: Wayne Barnes
assistant: Karl Dickson
assistant: Wayne Falla
TMO: Trevor Fisher