Sale Sharks’ Premiership Rugby Cup campaign ended with a 28-12 defeat to the Newcastle Falcons at a cold and damp AJ Bell Stadium.
Steve Diamond’s side struggled for possession and territory throughout as Newcastle sealed their place in the semi-finals with tries from Callum Chick, Vereniki Goneva, Zach Kibirige and Jamie Blamire.
Sale did manage two tries of their own through Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Josh Beaumont, but it was a frustrating day against their northern rivals.
The hosts might have taken the lead early on had Arron Reed held onto a pass just inside the Newcastle 22. However, it was the Falcons who struck first.
Kibirige, who was a threat all afternoon, broke a couple of tackles before being hauled down just short of the line. Although a few phases later Chick powered his way over to give his side the lead.
It was no more than they deserved after a dominant start to the game.
Sale were able to find a route back into the game thanks to a moment of brilliance from Kieran Wilkinson. His delightful chip over the top of the onrushing Newcastle defenders was caught by Reed, who fed van Rensburg, and the centre had a simple run in to score on his return from injury.
Cliff’s conversion levelled the scores at 7-7, and it would remain all-square until half-time, despite Newcastle having numerous chances to retake the lead. Winger Kibirige, a culprit of not giving a pass which would have likely led to a try for his team.
The early stages of the second half were just as scrappy as much of the first. Handling errors costing both teams in their pursuit of the lead.
It would be Newcastle replacement, Goneva, who instigated the Falcons’ late onslaught. He surged through the Sharks’ defence, played a neat one-two with Flood, and dotted down to score.
After the try had been converted by Flood, Newcastle pressed on knowing they needed a bonus-point to secure qualification.
Their third try coming from Kibirige after Glen Young had done well to evade a couple of Sale defenders.
Beaumont did reduce the arrears to 21-12 six minutes later, but the visitors secured the win with their fourth try in the final moments of the contest. Blamire, the Newcastle replacement hooker, crossing the line.
Brett Connon converted, adding to Flood’s three successful kicks off the tee earlier in the game, and the Newcastle fans celebrated their team’s safe passage into the knockout stages.
They will face Northampton next week in the semi-finals, while Sale will also face the Saints in their next game. That match in two weeks when they return to Gallagher Premiership action.
Photo Credit: Sale Sharks