Sale Sharks slip to defeat at London Irish in Aviva Premiership
Last Updated: 12/04/15 5:48pm
Sale's hopes of qualification for next season's European Champions Cup were dealt a hammer blow as they fell to a 25-23 defeat at London Irish.
The Sharks remain seventh in the Aviva Premiership but they lost ground on most of their rivals and have only themselves to blame after an error-strewn performance at the Madejski Stadium.
Irish scored three tries through Alex Lewington (2) and Andrew Fenby, with Chris Noakes adding two penalties and two conversions.
Tom Arscott scored a brace of tries for Sale as Mike Haley claimed the other, with Danny Cipriani kicking eight points as they had to settle for a losing bonus point.
The Exiles got off to a shaky start with simple errors giving the visitors a platform to attack, and Sale created an overlap to give Arscott an easy run-in after three minutes.
Noakes rewarded a period of pressure for Irish with two penalties in four minutes midway through the opening half, but they had prop Tom Court sin-binned on 33 minutes for dragging down a driving line-out.
Sale took immediate advantage, Haley outflanking the Irish cover defence to score a well-created try.
With the last kick of the half, Noakes attempted a penalty from inside his own half. It fell short but rather that booting the ball out of play, Cipriani chose to run the ball from within his own 22 and his pass to Haley was fumbled by the full-back.
Irish capitalised with Fenby seizing the loose ball to race away for the try, which Noakes converted for a 13-10 interval lead.
Court returned but Irish were soon back down to 14 men when Blair Cowan was yellow-carded for a deliberate offside, with Cipriani making no mistake to tie up the scores.
Sale took further advantage of Cowan's absence to score their third try and Arscott's second, the wing again outflanking the home cover.
Irish fought back and they appeared to have scored when a driving maul crashed over the visitors' line but the TMO was unable to confirm the grounding.
It did not matter for long as Sale's Chris Cusiter was yellow-carded which gave Irish a chance to score their second through Lewington.
Topsy Ojo was the next to receive a yellow card but Irish overcame that setback when Lewington brushed aside some weak tackling to score his second try.
Cipriani kicked his second penalty to set up a tense finish but Sale continued to make mistakes at crucial times as Irish held on.