Friday 22nd March 2013, Kickoff 8pm
Sale went a long way to maintaining their Aviva Premiership status with a slender 14-13 victory over Bath.
Replacement Tom Brady scored the crucial try nine minutes from time which gave the Sharks' survival bid a huge shot in the arm.
In a game played out in blizzard conditions at an ice-cold Salford City Stadium, Sale were good value for their win which keeps them above bottom club London Welsh, who are currently awaiting to hear the verdict of their appeal against a five-point deduction.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was 'delighted' with the narrow win and praised his players' resolve in difficult conditions.
"In the first half, the wind and snow were all over the shop, but I felt we won that fair and square.
"We showed good composure to get back into the game at the end and this is a big step towards our goal.
"It was a good, hard game of rugby on a cold winter's night and that's how we like it up here."
Having rested several key players for the LV Cup final loss to Harlequins last Sunday, Diamond made nine changes for this crucial encounter. The return of experienced international Mark Cueto will no doubt have given the squad a timely boost ahead of the game.
Having been carried off with a knee injury against Quins back in February, the Sharks' faithful were delighted to see Cueto, the Premiership's all-time leading points scorer, back in action so soon.
The match began amidst a swirling snow storm and it was Sale who adapted better to the conditions in the early exchanges, maintaining possession and edging deeper into Bath territory.
However, the shivering crowd had to wait until the twentieth minute for the opening score of the game, as Welshman Peel won the Sharks a penalty which fly-half Nick MacLeod successfully kicked to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
The scrappy nature of the game continued throughout the first half, the scoring dominated by penalties as Tom Heathcote levelled the scores for Bath, before MacLeod converted a minute later after Bath had been penalised for not rolling away.
Sale went on the offensive immediately from the restart and extended their lead to 9-3 by half time, once again through the right boot of MacLeod, more than justifying his selection ahead of Danny Cipriani.
Bath came out much the stronger side in the second half, as conditions deteriorated inside the stadium. Gary Gold's charges were rewarded for their dominance with a 53rd minute try from Argentinean winger Horacio Agulla. Heathcote kicked a tricky conversion to give the visitors the lead for the first time on the night.
Sale appeared galvanised by this and set about re-taking the lead. A 30 metre rolling maul gave the home crowd something to cheer and the Sharks went on to dominate the final quarter of the game.
The longest phase of pressure either side had exerted throughout the match saw Peel come close to breaking through a strong Bath defence but was held up by second-row Dominic Day. The Welsh scrum-half then opted to switch the ball to the right where Brady, a late inclusion on the replacements bench, was found on the overlap to burst clear and give Sale the crucial score of the evening.
MacLeod missed the conversion, and Bath then reduced arrears with a Heathcote penalty to set up a nervy final few minutes, but Sale stood firm and were roared over the finish line by their frost-bitten supporters.
It was never pretty, but this victory puts daylight between Sale and relegation rivals London Welsh, who narrowly lost to Gloucester on Saturday, and the manner of the performance suggests the Sharks' have the battling qualities required to avoid the drop.
Backs: Cameron Shepherd, Charlie Amesbury, Jonny Leota, Sammy Tuitupou (Brady 63), Mark Cueto, Nick Macleod, Dwayne Peel;
Forwards: Alasdair Dickinson (Harrison 63), Marc Jones (Taylor 58), Henry Thomas (Buckley 63), James Gaskell, Andrei Ostrikov (McKenzie 62), Dan Braid, David Seymour (C), Andy Powell (Myall 58)
Try: Brady (71); Penalties: MacLeod (3)
Subs not used: Danny Cipriani, Nathan Fowles
Man of the match: Nick MacLeod
Backs: Nick Abendanon (Devoto 67), Horacio Agulla (Rokoduguni 69), Matt Banahan, Kyle Eastmond, Tom Biggs, Tom Heathcote, Peter Stringer (Claassens 52);
Forwards: Paul James (Catt 61), Rob Webber (Batty 52), Dave Wilson (Pernise 65), Stuart Hooper (C), Dave Attwood (Day 20), Francois Louw (Gilbert 75), Carl Fearns, Ben Skirving
Try: Aguilla (53); Penalties: Heathcote (2); Conversions: Heathcote
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Ashley Rowden and Stuart Terheege
No.4: Martin Fox
Thanks to Charlie for covering the game on Friday. The next Sale Sharks home game is Sale Sharks v Gloucester Rugby on Friday 12th April, kick off 7.45pm. Tickets are available now and can be purchased by calling the Sale Sharks ticket line on 08444 994 994 or buy your tickets online.