Newcastle Falcons edged a scrappy northern derby on Friday night, continuing their winning start to the Aviva Premiership season.
Newcastle began brightly despite the rain teeming down, Joel Hodgson close to a try on four minutes when he was only a whisker away from pouncing on a chargedown in the Sale in-goal.
The Sharks went even closer when the TMO ruled out a score from Byron McGuigan, the winger knocking on in the act of grounding after flowing move from turnover ball.
The home side’s pressure went unrewarded once again on nine minutes when they kicked a penalty to the corner and lost the resulting line-out, Hodgson putting Newcastle into better field position with a 50-metre punt to the right corner.
The visitors’ defensive line-out was delivering a steady stream of possession as Calum Green and his fellow back-five men stole repeated Sale throws, but it was the home side who broke the deadlock when AJ MacGinty slotted a penalty from 40 metres out, left of centre.
The relieving boot of Josh Matavesi earned the Falcons some respite as stout defence forced a turnover on their own 22, neither side troubling the scorers further as a drab opening half ended 3-0 to the home side.
Within five minutes of the resumption the visitors had hauled themselves level, Takulua slotting the simplest of penalties as Sale infringed at a maul following another rock-solid Falcons line-out.
The Sharks responded with MacGinty’s second penalty from similar range, Takulua pulling the sides level once more on 52 minutes with a well-struck penalty from wide right.
MacGinty sent over two penalties in as many minutes to build a six-point buffer on the hour mark, Newcastle turning to their bench for inspiration as Vereniki Goneva came on for the closing quarter at the venue at which he scored a hat-trick last season.
But a period of late pressure earned due rewards for the Falcons when a maul in the right corner was pulled down, a penalty try right awarded as Dean Richards’ men assumed a one-point advantage going into the closing six minutes.
It was a lead which remained until the final whistle, the Falcons two from two in an encouraging start to the campaign.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi (Juan Pablo Socino, 57), 11 Belisario Agulla (Vereniki Goneva, 60), 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Rob Vickers (Sami Mavinga, 73), 2 Scott Lawson (Santiago Socino, 60), 3 Jon Welsh (Trevor Davison, 60), 4 Calum Green, 5 Will WittySean Robinson, 57), 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain) 8 Callum Chick (Nili Latu, 11).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Penalty try. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua 2.
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Will Addison (captain), 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk; 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Cameron Neild (Marc Jones, 40), 3 Alex Tarus (WillGriff John, 49), 4 Josh Beaumont, 5 Andre Ostrikov (George Nott, 52), 6 Jono Ross, 7 Tom Curry (Ben Curry, 65), 8 Josh Strauss (TJ Ioane, 52).
Sale scorers - Penalties: AJ MacGinty 4.
Referee: Andrew Jackson.
Haley, Solomona, Addison, Jennings, McGuigan, MacGinty, de Klerk, Harrison, Neild, Tarus, Ostrikov, Beaumont, Ross, Curry, Strauss
Replacements Jones, Flynn, John, Nott, Ioane, Curry, Cliff, James
Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Matavesi, Agulla, Hodgson, Takulua, Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Witty, Wilson, Welch, Chick
Replacements Socino, Mavinga, Davison, Robinson, Latu, Stuart, Socino, Goneva
referee: Andrew Jackson
assistant: Greg MacDonald
assistant: Steve Lee
TMO: Trevor Fisher