Newcastle Falcons were made to pay for a pair of second-half sin-binnings and a host of key injuries as Sale Sharks made the extra men count in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership northern derby.
The Falcons led 7-3 at the interval but spent the bulk of the second half swimming against the tide, Logovi’i Mulipola and Michael Young having been shown yellow cards against a battling Sharks outfit.
Newcastle began the game trying to play in the right areas, fit-again scrum-half Young biting off a big chunk of territory with a well-judged kick to the left corner to peg back the home side, who had launched a couple of early attacking forays.
The visitors’ cause suffered a dent after just six minutes when prolific winger Vereniki Goneva left the field with a head knock following an attempted tackle on Marland Yarde, a breathless Sharks attack eventually coming to nought after more than four minutes of home possession.
The half-hour mark came and went without either side having troubled the scorers, Newcastle suffering a second early injury when fly-half Toby Flood left the field after taking a knock to his arm.
Replacement Tom Penny had came closest to breaking the deadlock when he supported a Simon Hammersley run down the right hand side, only for his side to be penalised for an illegal ruck clearance five metres out.
It wasn’t until the 33rd minute that the first points finally materialised, home fly-half AJ MacGinty chipping over the simplest of penalties from 10 metres out in front of the posts.
It served only to spur Newcastle into action, skipper Will Welch scoring from a close-range pick and go after a 20-phase attack which included multiple offloads from Fiji lock Tevita Cavubati, among others.
Joel Hodgson converted from right of centre to give his side a 7-3 half-time lead, Newcastle enjoying the lion’s share of territory and possession during the opening exchanges of the second 40.
That was until Mulipola’s sin-binning for an early tackle on his own 22, Sale eventually scoring from the penalty when a maul was driven infield, James Phillips diving over from a close-range pick and go.
MacGinty’s straightforward conversion put his side three points to the good, and the Falcons were reduced to 13 men when Young was sin-binned for a high tackle near his own line.
Newcastle survived a further potential blow when the TMO ruled out a Will Cliff try because of a foot in touch from a blind-side snipe, but it was only a temporary reprieve as the two extra men eventually told, Bryn Evans scoring in the left corner from a simple one-out pass.
MacGinty’s missed conversion attempt restricted Sale’s lead to eight points going into the closing 13 minutes, but they took the margin into double figures when centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg broke free from the 22 to dot down.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva (Tom Penny, 6), 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (Joel Hodgson, 21), 9 Michael Young (Sonatane Takulua, 71); 1 Adam Brocklebank (Sami Mavinga, 61), 2 George McGuigan (Kyle Cooper, 61), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (David Wilson, 65), 4 Calum Green, 5 Tevita Cavubati (Will Witty, 54), 6 Gary Graham, 7 Will Welch (captain, Ryan Burrows, 61), 8 Mark Wilson.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Will Welch. Conversions: Joel Hodgson.
Sale Sharks: 15 Sam James, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Luke James (James O’Connor, 54), 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Mark Jennings, 75), 11 Marland Yarde (Alexandru Tarus, 75), 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Will Cliff (Gus Warr, 75); 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Rob Webber (Curtis Langdon, 71), 3 WillGriff John, 4 Bryn Evans, 5 James Phillips (Andrei Ostrikov, 54), 6 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Tom Curry, 8 Josh Strauss (Josh Beaumont, 54).
Sale scorers - Tries: James Phillips, Bryn Evans, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Conversions: AJ MacGinty. Penalties: AJ MacGinty.
Referee: Tom Foley. Attendance: 5,586.
Janse van Rensburg 72
James, McGuigan, James, Janse van Rensburg, Yarde, MacGinty, Cliff, Harrison, Webber, John, Evans, Phillips, Ross, Curry, Strauss
Replacements Langdon, Tarus, Jones, Beaumont, Ostrikov, Warr, Jennings, O'Connor
Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Williams, Sinoti, Flood, Young, Brocklebank, McGuigan, Mulipola, Green, Cavubati, Graham, Welch, Wilson
Replacements Cooper, Mavinga, Wilson, Witty, Burrows, Takulua, Hodgson, Penny
referee: Tom Foley
assistant: Anthony Woodthorpe
assistant: Tim Wigglesworth
TMO: Trevor Fisher