Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks and London Irish boost survival hopes
London Irish and Sale Sharks both took a major step towards Aviva Premiership survival after sharing a 33-33 draw.
Last Updated: 31/03/13 4:50pm
The result takes Irish 12 points clear of bottom side London Welsh with just three games remaining, while Sale's bonus-point haul has virtually ensured their safety.
The Sharks sit eight points clear of Welsh after scoring four tries in a rollercoaster contest full off attacking rugby that belied both sides' perilous league positions.
Sale looked set for a hiding as London Irish - unbeaten at home since before Christmas - ran in two tries in the opening 10 minutes.
Sailosi Tagicakibau's step and charge to the posts set up Guy Armitage to dive over from close range, with Tom Homer converting and although Nick Macleod replied with a penalty for Sale, prop Halani Aulika went over from 30 metres out, fending off Charlie Amesbury with almost contemptuous ease on his way to the posts for his ninth try of the season.
Homer converted but Sale hit back almost immediately, as Al Dickinson and Gaskell made ground up the middle and after David Paice was sinbinned for cynically delaying the attack, Henry Thomas raced in to score almost unopposed from the resulting penalty and lineout.
Both sides missed almost 30 per cent of their tackles in the opening quarter and Mark Cueto toiok advantage of more poor defence to cut inside and put Sale ahead, although two Homer penalties edged Irish 20-15 clear.
But Sale finished the half on a high as good footwork from Cameron Shepherd beat Ian Humphreys, giving Kearnan Myall the space to get in at the corner.
Macleod converted from the touchline and Sale led for the first time at half-time in the Premiership this season.
Macleod stetched the lead with a long range penalty and Sale led by 10 when James Gaskell's fine finish earned the bonus point after Amesbury stole the ball and raced 40 metres up the wing.
Back came Irish as, George Skivington dived over by the posts from close range and Homer converted, before a couple of Homer penalties took the hosts ahead again.
Macleod missed a straightforward penalty chance to level with four minutes left, but a minute from time Irish again infringed at the breakdown and this time Macleod made no mistake.