Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks grind out win over London Irish
Sale moved into the top half of the Aviva Premiership with a dominant 15-3 victory over London Irish.
Last Updated: 20/12/13 10:58pm
The Sharks' success was built on the power and control of their forward pack, while they also coped far better with fairly atrocious conditions in Salford.
Sale built up a 12-0 lead by half-time after 40 minutes with the squalling and rain-swept wind at their backs, through tries from Tom Brady and David Seymour, the first converted by Danny Cipriani.
After the break, penalties from Cipriani and Ian Humphreys were the only scores as Irish never looked likely to stage a comeback.
Following the travails of last season where they only just avoided the drop, Irish have endured another difficult year.
They went into this game with just two wins in the Premiership, but Brian Smith's men were boosted last week by a takeover led by Mick Crossan which enabled them to sign former South Africa international CJ van der Linde.
Van der Linde was set to make his debut against Sale until a calf injury ruled him out late on and the consequent lack of experience in the visiting front row was exposed early on as they immediately conceded a penalty in the set-piece.
Cipriani's effort from the tee drifted wide of the target and it was the Exiles who were next on the attack, when Fergus Mulchrone broke through some flimsy tackling by the Sharks fly-half.
The away side continued to look threatening with ball in hand with Australia representative James O'Connor regularly involved, but it was Steve Diamond's team that managed to strike first.
Cipriani was the instigator, as he has been so often this season, when his cross-field kick landed in the grateful arms of Brady who took advantage of a fortuitous bounce to touch down.
Sale's pivot added the conversion as they took a 7-0 lead after 19 minutes.
Irish were struggling to get out of their own half due to the blustery conditions, and the hosts made their territorial dominance count when a driving maul ended in Seymour crossing the whitewash for an unconverted score.
Despite being 12 points down going into the second period, London Irish were very much in the game with the wind in their favour after the interval.
But it was the Sharks that started the half the brighter and good link-up play between Cipriani and Sam Tuitupou sent Phil Mackenzie clear.
The winger showed good footwork to make it to within 10 metres of the line, but the hosts were unable to take advantage of the position and the move broke down.
They were eventually rewarded for that positive passage of play when the visitors infringed and Sale's seven-cap England international kicked the resultant penalty.
Matters got worse for London Irish when Chris Hala'ufia received a yellow card for a tip tackle on Seymour.
Although the home side could not score with Hala'ufia off the field, Sale crucially prevented the Exiles from mounting any serious pressure on their line.
Humphreys did finally get Smith's team on the board after 68 minutes via a three-pointer but the Sharks comfortably held on.