Sale Sharks remained in the top six of the Gallagher Premiership after securing a thrilling 20-20 draw against Bristol Bears.

A fantastic conclusion almost saw both teams come away with victory as Bristol’s Ian Madigan and Sale’s Faf de Klerk missed tough kicks in front of over 20,000 fans at Ashton Gate.

All this after tries from Denny Solomona and de Klerk had put Sale on top in a game which they could quite easily have won despite being pegged back by Charles Piutau and Alapati Leiua tries for Bristol.

In the end, though, the spoils were shared and Sale crucially maintained their three point lead over the Bears in the Gallagher Premiership table.

Sale began excellently and might have taken the lead inside five minutes but they were repelled well by the Bristol defensive effort.

However, it would not be long before the Sharks’ gained the upper-hand. Solomona expertly intercepting a Callum Sheedy pass to race in and score.

MacGinty converted and then added a penalty as Steve Diamond’s side opened up a 10-0 advantage.

Bristol, who had struggled to get a foothold in the game early on, got themselves back into the match just after the half-hour mark.

Charles Piutau powering his way over after a sustained spell of pressure from the hosts.

Sheedy added the extras and then traded penalties with de Klerk to leave the game delicately poised at 13-10 to Sale at half-time.

Just as they did in the first half, the visitors flew out of the blocks after the interval and added their second try of the night.

Ben Curry racing down the left-hand touchline before passing to de Klerk who ran in to score. MacGinty landed a tough conversion to open the Sale lead back out to 10 points.

But Bristol would respond immediately, Leiua somehow getting the ball down in the corner to leave the game in the balance once more.

The match was now being played at a frantic pace, neither side wanting to give an inch in their pursuit of Champions Cup rugby.

The next chance came via a moment of controversy. Leiua bursting through after collecting a kick and it looked as if he had given Bristol the lead. Although it was disallowed after a scuffle between Sheedy and Chris Ashton.

That kept Sale ahead but Bristol did level the scores through another Sheedy penalty with just under 10 minutes to go.

The game was anyone’s and replacement fly-half Ian Madigan missed a difficult kick with three minutes on the clock.

The Irishman had one more chance to win the game for the Bristol, after Sale captain Jono Ross was sin-binned, but he was unsuccessful again.

Sale would then get a opportunity themselves but de Klerk hit the post, and extraordinarily Bristol then raced down the other end as Tom Pincus almost dotted down in the corner.

But the Sale defense scrambled brilliantly,  preventing the winger from scoring, turned the ball over and booted the ball into touch as a thrilling match finished in a draw.


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