Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 35-30 Sale Sharks

By Emma ThurstonBBC Sport
Rob Vickers
Rob Vickers bundles his way over two minutes from the end to seal the win for Newcastle Falcons
Aviva Premiership
Newcastle: (25) 35
Tries: Green, Graham, Hammersley, Lawson, Vickers Cons: Hodgson 2 Pens: Hodgson 2
Sale: (14) 30
Tries: B Curry, Yarde 2 Cons: MacGinty 3 Pens: MacGinty 3

Newcastle Falcons repelled an emphatic comeback from Sale to secure victory over their play-off rivals.

Falcons squandered a 25-0 lead to trail 27-25 going into the final quarter.

Newcastle's first-half haul included maiden Premiership tries from Calum Green and Gary Graham, while Ben Curry and Marland Yarde crossed for Sale.

Yarde's second plus AJ MacGinty's boot put the Sharks ahead before a Joel Hodgson penalty and Rob Vickers' 78th-minute try sealed a hard-fought win.

The thrilling 65-point encounter between the two sides was effectively an eliminator for one side's top-four ambitions this season.

Just one point separated the two, in fifth and sixth, going into Friday's encounter. The bonus-point win puts Dean Richards' Falcons up to third in the Premiership table while Sale remain sixth, before the rest of this weekend's league programme.

The Tyneside outfit face Leicester at Welford Road and Wasps at Kingston Park in their final two Premiership games of the season. Sale finish at reigning champions Exeter and at home against Tigers.

On an absorbing night the home side looked unstoppable for 27 minutes as they secured their try-scoring bonus point with ease.

Graham, playing his first competitive match since injuring his back training with England in February, set the tone early with two excellent breaks.

The flanker got on the board after 16 minutes but looked to have blotted his copybook in the second half with an incident at the breakdown that may be looked at further.

Will Welch's yellow card for a deliberate knock-on did not halt their cause, but the Sharks did spring into life. Tries from Curry and Yarde's first, just before the break, kept them in the match.

The tables turned in the second half as Sale cut out their mistakes and made the most of their possession. Yarde's second locked the game at 25-25 before the accurate boot of MacGinty put the Sharks ahead for the first time with 20 minutes to play.

Hodgson, the Premiership's most accurate kicker going into the encounter, settled the hosts with a 70th-minute penalty.

Sale then snatched the lead again. But, with two minutes to play the home side rode through 17 phases to secure the match-winner.

Falcons' stalwart Vickers surged over from close range to keep their four-and-a-half month unbeaten home record intact.

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards:

"We were outstanding in the first 20 minutes of the first half and not so much in the second half.

"But then we woke up. The guys that came on had a big impact and changed the game.

"There's no easy games at this stage of the season when you're in the position we're in - Sale, Leicester and Wasps on the last day of the season. They're all quality teams and difficult to beat and Sale are a quality side with quality players."

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond:

"We weren't at the races in the first 20 minutes and you can't afford to go 25 points down against a top-four side.

"In the second half we controlled the game for 35 minutes and then didn't for the last five minutes.

"I'm disappointed but proud of the way the lads played. We just gave too much away in the first 20 minutes and then came back but just didn't close the game out."

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, JP Socino, Sinoti, Hodgson, Young, Lockwood, Lawson, S. Wilson, Green, Witty, Welch (capt), Graham, Hogg.

Replacements: S Socino, Vickers, Davison, Olmstead, Burrows, Takulua, Mermoz, Tait.

Sale Sharks: McGuigan, Odogwu, S James, L James, Yarde, MacGinty, De Klerk, Harrison, Webber, John, Evans, Ostrikov, Ross (capt), B Curry, Strauss.

Replacements: Jones, Tarus, Aulika, Beaumont, Ioane, T Curry, Cliff, Redpath.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys.

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