Finally Topple Exeter
A personal highlight of what has been the definition of a topsy-turvy season has to be the victory over Exeter Chiefs in February. The result proved to be a real turning point in what had up until that point been a disappointing start to the season. What made it even sweater was having seen Sale narrowly lose out to The Chiefs at Edgeley Park the previous season after a fantastic first half performance.
The game didn't start quite as planned with Dan Braid having to leave the field temporarily having sustained a broken finger whilst Jack Nowell went close for the visitors, knocking on as he crossed the line. The Chiefs took the lead through a Steenson penalty as referee Greg Garner continued to penalise both sides seemingly at random causing the game to stutter somewhat and the fans to voice their discontent.
Braid soon returned to the field and immediately made his mark, crossing the line at the back of a rolling maul to make the score 5-3.
The crowd's mood was reflected on the pitch as both teams became entangled in a scuffle with Garner warning both captains to calm their teams down. Exeter then took the lead once again as Votu grounded the ball and Steenson added the extras.
An all too common feeling of concern was becoming prevalent amongst the crowd with many worrying Sale were about to slip to a 7th consecutive loss to the Chiefs as the home side went in 5 13 down.
Early in the second half Steenson further extended Exeter?s lead with another penalty, however the best was yet to come.
Sale's legendary winger Mark Cueto finally broke team mate Steve Hanley's Premiership try scoring record in the 54th minute that saw the crowd celebrate like we had won the game. A truly remarkable achievement for Mark that made attending the game more than worthwhile. Rob Miller converted the try to bring Sale within a score much to the pleasure of the home fans.
A feeling of relief began to grow around the stadium as Miller and Cipriani scored penalties to restore Sale's lead before a Hortsmann was sin-binned for the Chiefs to hand Sale the advantage in the closing stages. A Nick Macleod drop goal sent the home fans into raptures as it seemed like we had completed the great escape.
Unfortunately there was still time for Exeter to rip our nerves to shreds once more as they twice made a play for the try line, fortunately Scaysbrook was adjudged to have knocked on in the lead up to a disallowed try. Cipriani proceeded to place the ball into the stand much to the relief of a packed stadium. The sigh of relief was audible as the fans could celebrate a much deserved and hard earned victory.
I really do feel this game was a massive turning point in the season giving the fans something to cheer about and the players belief in themselves. It was also a real highlight for seeing Cuets finally topple Hanley as the league top scorer.
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