Sale Sharks secured a seventh-place finish in the Gallagher Premiership with a 46-41 victory over Gloucester in a pulsating game at the AJ Bell Stadium.
In a contest which swung one way and then another, the Sharks triumphed thanks to tries from Tom Curry, Rob Webber, Sam James, Christ Ashton, Byron McGuigan, AJ MacGinty and Denny Solomona.
Their opponents, who were missing a number of first-team players, more than played their part scoring six tries of their own through Ben Vellacott (2), Tom Seabrook, Matt Banahan, Lewis Ludlow, and Dom Coetzer.
But it was not enough to overcome the Sharks, who must now wait to find out whether they are in next seasons Champions Cup, with their fate in the hands of La Rochelle.
Sale raced out of the blocks and had the lead inside two minutes. A lovely move between de Klerk and MacGinty pierced the Gloucester defence, eventually allowing Tom Curry to dive over.
The Sharks’ advantage did not last long as the Gloucester backs produced brilliant move of their own to put Seabrook in under the posts to level the scores at 7-7.
However, the hosts would soon be back in front as Webber, on the day of his 200th Premiership appearance, was the beneficiary of an excellent driving maul to give his team the advantage once more.
Webber then turned provider for Sale’s third score, forcing a turnover in midfield, leading to a try for Sam James.
At 19-7, the Sharks’ Champions Cup prospects looked in great shape. But back came Gloucester as first Vellacott, and then Banahan turned the game on its head to put the West Country outfit in charge.
Although their dominance did not last for long as an exquisite offload from MacGinty put Jono Ross into a gap, the Sale captain passing to de Klerk, whose over the top pass handed Ashton a try on a plate.
That score looked as if it would give Steve Diamond’s side the half-time lead, but the Cherry and Whites had other ideas. Ludlow forcing his way over to bring a breathless opening 40 minutes to an end.
The beginning of the second half was just as frantic as the first. Sale quickly establishing an attacking opportunity and McGuigan diving over after some neat hands from the Sharks’ backs.
Supporters at the AJ Bell were being treated to free flowing contest and it was Banahan who next produced a moment of brilliance. A lovely chip from the Gloucester centre put Coetzer in to level proceedings at 31-31.
Sale’s hopes of a top-six finish were now firmly in the balance but they fell behind again as Vellacott crossed for his second of the game.
Lloyd Evans converted and then added a penalty as the visitors edged ahead. The Sharks were in danger of letting the game get away from them, but the ever-present de Klerk was on hand to give them a lifeline.
An incisive run from the scrum-half setting up MacGinty to dot down. That reduced the deficit and incredibly just a minute later the Sharks were ahead. Solomona acrobatically finishing in the corner after a stunning passage of play.
MacGinty’s late penalty extended the lead in the final play of the game and the fans inside the AJ Bell celebrated a famous victory.
Photo Credit: Sale Sharks