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Fri 23 Dec 7:45pm Kingston Park Attendance: 0
Newcastle Falcons vs Sale Sharks
Newcastle completed a thrilling second-half fightback to beat second-placed Sale 20-14 at Kingston Park.
The Sharks ground out a 14-0 lead after a penalty-strewn first half as Ewan Ashman and Tom O’Flaherty crossed and Rob du Preez kicked the extras.
But Brett Connon’s penalty, and tries from Mateo Carreras and Sam Stuart put Falcons 17-14 up just after the hour.
As Sale’s discipline slid further, Connon kicked his second penalty to cap a fourth Falcons win of the season.
With leaders Saracens slipping to their first defeat of the season, Sale failed to take advantage and remain 10 points adrift, while a third league win in four lifts the resurgent Falcons up to eighth.
In lashing rain, an attritional, stop-start first half was littered with penalties, mainly against the hosts, and gave Ashman the platform to power over from the back of a maul for his 10th-minute opener.
Continuing to get on the wrong side of referee Adam Leal, the hosts lost scrum-half Michael Young to the sin-bin – Falcons’ 11th yellow card in the league this season – and moments later, winger O’Flaherty ran in as Sale moved 14-0 ahead in 26 minutes.
Newcastle’s 10th infringement of the half cost them a score on the stroke of half-time when Sale scrum-half Gus Warr was penalised for holding on at the try-line, only for the penalty to be reversed for a high tackle.
Yet it was Sale’s turn to fall foul of Leal’s whistle as the Falcons responded superbly after the break, Connon’s kick getting them off the mark before Carreras brilliantly ghosted past three defenders to bring the hosts back to 14-10.
With the Sharks’ previously resolute defence beginning to buckle under mounting pressure, Stuart dived over to give Falcons the lead just after the hour.
The visitors gave up 12 penalties to Newcastle’s two after the break, and Connon’s kick took the hosts six points clear with 12 minutes left.
It was a lead which proved enough for a fifth successive home league win over Sale.
Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson:
“It was a game of two halves that’s for sure. The first half, we weren’t at our best and it was some rugby for the purists but we managed to get into the break with two tries under our belts and seemed to be in control.
“The second half was a different story. We lost our discipline and gave away too many penalties which we got punished for.
“A few times this season we have played a good half of rugby but not been able to back it up in the other half. It’s clearly something that we need to look at and see what we can do moving forward.”
Newcastle: Obatoyinbo; Radwan, Moroni, Penny, Carreras; Connon, Young (capt); Brocklebank, Blamire, Davison, Peterson, de Chaves, Graham, Chick, Fearns.
Replacements: Fletcher, Mulipola, Palframan, Dalton, Marshall, Stuart, Schoeman, Kerr.
Sin-bin: Young (24).
Sale: L James; Reed, Mills, S Hill, O’Flaherty; R du Preez, Warr; Harrison, Ashman, Schonert, Wiese, J Hill, Ross, B Curry (capt), D du Preez.
Replacements: van der Merwe, Onasanya, Jones, Beaumont, J-L du Preez, Simpson, Curtis, McGuigan.
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