Sale Sharks were hoping to maintain their impressive home form at the AJ Bell Stadium having won 9/12 games at home in 2013.
Mark Cueto and David Seymour passed late fitness tests which enabled them to take part in the game.
Before kick off the Sale Sharks record against Exeter was played six won one. That victory came in February this year when Sharks had mounted a revival after a poor start to the season. It was also the game where Mark Cueto became the all time leading Premiership Try Scorer when he touched down in the second half.
Sale started brightly and Dan Braid made a couple of testing runs into the Exeter defence. Exeter were solid though and started to make inroads of their own. In doing so they won a penalty 20 metres out which Chiefs a 0-3 lead on six minutes.
Sale won a couple of quick penalties from their dominant forwards at the scrum and on 15 minutes as the mist started to descend Danny Cipriani kicked his second penalty to give Sharks a 6-3 lead.
That penalty seemed to waken Exeter who came forward in numbers and worse was to come when Cobilas was sin binned on 19 minutes for an offence at the ruck. Steenson kicked the penalty to level the scores at 6-6. It would now be interesting to see how Sale dealt with being a man down. The Sale defence was put under increasing pressure and on 23 mins Steenson made it 3/3 with a Chiefs a 6-9 lead.
Referee Wayne Barnes warned Dan Braid on 24 minutes to have a word with his players as he gave a succession of penalties against the home side.
Sale did well to hold Exeter to three points during the sin binning; Sharks could have levelled the scores on 29 minutes but Danny Cipriani miss hit a penalty from 25 metres out.
Sharks were having problems clearing their lines effectively by failing to find touch on several occasions which was giving the Chiefs the opportunity to come back with the ball every time.
Play was held up on 33 minutes when referee Barnes went to the TMO for confirmation on a tip tackle by Tommy Taylor. Out came the yellow card and Sharks were a man down again. From the penalty that was awarded for the infringement Steenson made no mistake and the visitors led 6-12.
Dan Braid took over the Hookers role of throwing in at the line out in Taylors absence and threw a short ball to Paterson. Tom Johnson threw himself into the line out and injured Eifion Lewis Roberts in the process. Eifion recovered after treatment.
The yellow card fest continued on 36 minutes when Kulemin was sent to the sin bin by referee Barnes who felt the wrath of the home crowd. Worse was to follow as Sammy Tuitupou needed lengthy treatment for a bang to the head. Exeter's penalty for the Kulemin offence was converted by Steenson who gave the visitors a 6-15 lead against 13 man Sale.
Johnson was penalised by the referee on 39 minutes on the half way line and to help wind the clock down Cipriani opted to go for a 50 metre kick at goal. His attempt fell short and the half ended with the home crowd frustrated that their team had suffered three sin binnings during the first half.
HT Sale Sharks 6 Exeter Chiefs 15
Thirteen man Sale started the second half defending as was expected but won huge applause when they forced Exeter into an error and won the scrum. Back came Tommy Taylor so it was now 14 vs 15.
Kulemin didn't return from his sin binning as Seymour came on and Paterson went to Lock. Sharks put together a great attacking move started by a good run by Miller but ended with Mark Cueto knocking on.
The '16th Man' became louder and louder as the home side tried to claw back the deficit but they were bemused by some of Wayne Barnes decisions.
Sharks introduced several substitutes and they started to dominate the Exeter defence but in fairness the Chiefs defence was very solid and couldn't be breached.
Danny Cipriani reduced the arrears to six with a penalty on 75 minutes. The crowds expectation of a losing bonus point was short lived as Sale were penalised in their own 22 and Steenson put the Chiefs back in front by nine points at 9-18.
One last big effort from Sharks saw Cueto slide in at the corner over the line. Referee Barnes went to the TMO for a second opinion and the crowd held their breath. TRY was the decision. Cipriani lined up the conversion and booted it over the crossbar 16-18 and 54 seconds remaining.
Sadly time ran out but Sale secured a losing bonus point and didn't concede a try which in view of the sin binnings was a big achievement.
Final Score Sale Sharks 16 Exeter Chiefs 18
Sale: Miller; T. Arscott, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Peel (Off 64); Lewis-Roberts (Off 59), Taylor (Off 58), Cobilas (Off 58); Kulemin, Ostrikov (Off 59); Paterson, Braid (capt) (Off 66), Easter (Off 25-29, 41-44)
Replacements: Jones (On for Easter 41, off 44. Back on 58.), Harrison (On for Lewis-Roberts 59), Thomas (On for Easter 25,off 29, Back on 58), Mills (On for Ostrikov 59), Seymour (on 48 mins), Cliff (On for Peel 64), Ford, Forsyth (On for Braid 66).
Scoring sequence (Sale first): 0-3, 3-3, 6-3, 6-6, 6-9, 6-12, 6-15, (Half time), 9-15, 9-18, 14-18, 16-18
|Sale Sharks Score Card|
|Exeter Chiefs Score Card|