Sale Sharks travelled down to Devon the day before the game, stopping off at Clifton near Bristol for a team run. Sandy Park has never been a happy hunting ground for Sharks having lost all three games since the Chiefs were promoted in 2010. Reversals of 19-24, 12-37 and 6-43 had been the results of the three defeats. Sharks were wary of the Chiefs threat, with the hosts having earned a try bonus win at Worcester the previous week. Sale needed a win to guarantee a place in next seasons new European competition whereas Chiefs needed 12 points from their last three games to overhaul Sharks and send them into a sudden death play off against the 7th placed French team.
Mark Cueto and Dan Braid both failed fitness tests on leg injuries and were left in Manchester for treatment. Charlie Ingall was named in the side as Cueto's replacement. Charlie's previous five games had yielded three tries and he has never let the side down when selected. James Gaskell was selected at Flanker with Viliami Fahiki coming in as number 8.
Chiefs have made their Sandy Park ground a real fortress and Sharks were hoping to test the home side. Sharks had won their previous four away games on the trot in the Premiership before the game. The Chiefs were hit with having to make a late change when Dean Mumm failed a fitness test.
The home advantage was evident when the Chiefs players ended their warm up and the PA System in harmony with the crowd pumped up the atmosphere to another level.One interested spectator in the main stand was England's Andy Farrell.
Danny Cipriani kicked off and the swirling wind caused Exeter a problem straightaway causing one of their forwards to knock on.
Exeter were playing a fast flowing offloading game early doors and the Sharks defence did well to contain them. Dwayne Peel picked up a bang to his leg in one tackle but recovered quickly. Sharks capitalised on a Chiefs error on 8 minutes which resulted in Tom Brady almost scoring in the corner. The try came though on ten minutes when Michael Paterson powered his way over from 20 metres, flicking off two tackles and carrying a player over the line with him (0-5), Cipriani converted with a difficult kick into the cross wind (0-7)
Sharks could have gone further ahead but Fahiki knocked on at a crucial time much to the relief of the Exeter defence and crowd. Sharks were then pegged back in their own 22 and a Mac Jones throw at the line was adjudged not to be straight giving Chiefs a put in at the scrum.
Sharks cleared the danger, working as a close knit unit and started to make inroads of their own. The Exeter Chiefs defence was putting in a big shift tackling wise and this surely would start to tell later in the game.
Michael Paterson was having an immense game at Lock, smashing through the defence regularly also putting in some big tackles and winning line out ball. Sharks won a scrum 15 metres out from the Exeter line and spread the ball wide right with Cipriani finding Arscott with a perfect pass allowing the full back to score Sharks second try (0-12). Cipriani's conversion looked good but caught a last second gust of wind and hit the post (0-12). Second later Sammy Tuitupou scored Sharks third try after a break by Fahiki and Seymour. Sammy made his way to the ingoal area to make Cipriani's conversion slightly easier (0-17). Cipriani obliged (0-19).
Jon Mills was injured attempting to catch the restart and complained to the referee about being taken out illegally. Referee Richards consulted his touch judge but took no action. Exeter then put together their best phases of the half but the Sharks defence held firm. That was until 36 minutes when Fetu'u Vainikolo spotted an opening and there was no way Sharks could stop the rocket heeled winger. Steenson converted………game on (7-19)
Sharks ran down the clock near to Half Time and went in to the break with a scoreline
Exeter Chiefs 7 Sale Sharks 19
Sharks re-entered the arena to warm applause and then thankfully after the Exeter Chiefs came back on the field the PA announcer found the off button on his microphone and gave everyone's ears a rest.
Exeter were desperate to get points on the board and had a good opportunity when they spread the ball wide. Tom Brady put in a big hit on one of the Chiefs players but hurt himself in the process. Thankfully he was up and about after treatment by Tom O'Malley. Viliami Fahiki was next in the wars picking up a facial injury and he had to be replaced by Andrei Ostrikov causing Sharks to reshuffle their pack.
On 57 minutes came the first score of the half when Sammy Tuitupou scored his second try rounding the full back and scoring between the sticks, Cipriani converted and Sharks led (7-26). This was in fact the highest score they had ever recorded in Devon!
Dwayne Peel was next on the scoreboard with a try in the corner on 63 minutes (7-31) Cipriani converted in what was to be his last involvement in the game as he was replaced by Joe Ford. (7-33)
Captain David Seymour scored the sixth try with a brilliant piece of opportunism. He pounced on a loose ball and ran in between the sticks to score the easiest of tries, Ford converted (7-40) and the Chiefs fans started to leave the ground in big numbers.
Joe Ford rubbed salt into the wound with a drop goal from 30 metres out (7-43) before Tom Brady score try number seven on 74 minutes when he powerfully ran through the defence. (7-48) Joe Ford lined up the conversion but sadly hit the post. (7-48).
Every credit to the Exeter fans who remained in the ground they roared their heroes on when Rimmer crashed over on 78 minutes. (12-48). Slade's coversion kick was wide of the target though.
Andrei Ostrikov was next to score for Sharks who passed the 50 mark in a Premiership game for the first time this season, Ford converted with the last kick of the game giving a final score
Exeter Chiefs 12 Sale Sharks 55Sale: Tom Arscott; Tom Brady, Johnny Leota, Sam Tuitupou (off 68mins), Charlie Ingall; Danny Cipriani (off 64mins), Dwayne Peel; Eifion Lewis-Roberts (off 64mins), Marc Jones (off 64mins), Vadim Cobilas (off 64mins); Jonathan Mills (off 59mins), Michael Paterson; James Gaskell, David Seymour (capt), Viliami Fihaki (off 48mins).
Replacements: Tommy Taylor (on for Jones 64mins), Ross Harrison (on for Roberts 64mins), Henry Thomas (on for Cobilas 64mins), Andrei Ostikov (on for Fihaki 48mins), Mark Easter (on for Mills 59mins), Will Cliff (on for Peel 68mins), Joe Ford (on for Cipriani 64mins), Mark Jennings (on for Tuitupou 68mins)
Scoring Sequence (Chiefs first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-17, 0-19, 5-19, 7-19 (Half Time) 7-24, 7-26, 7-31, 7-33, 7-38, 7-40, 7-43, 7-48, 12-48, 12-53, 12-55
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|Exeter Chiefs Score Card|
|Sale Sharks Score Card|