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Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks get new season off to a winning start
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Sale Sharks put last season's struggles behind them with a 22-16 victory at Gloucester on the Aviva Premiership's opening weekend.
Tries from former England wing Mark Cueto and centre Andy Forsyth, plus penalties from fly-half Nick MacLeod and full-back Tom Arscott helped seal the Sharks' victory.
Replacement Joe Ford added a drop goal towards the end and the gap, opened up during the first period, proved too much for Gloucester to close despite three penalties from outside-half Freddie Burns and a second-half try from centre Henry Trinder.
Sale looked the more inventive from the off, causing problems down the wings and their kicking game, via scrum-half Dwayne Peel and MacLeod, had the home side on the back foot.
Within 13 minutes, Sale had put the bite on Gloucester as MacLeod landed a short-range penalty before the first of their tries, a movement which saw former England wing Cueto glide past the home defence on the right.
Referee Andrew Small called on the TV official to have a look at the lead-up in which Peel linked with MacLeod from halfway, with replays showing that the stand-off's pass to Cueto may have gone marginally forward.
The Sale back-row, lead by skipper Dan Braid, were particularly lively in the loose as the fumbling home side suffered first-day nerves.
Burns landed Gloucester's first points of the season with a 25-metre penalty but they were caught in a panic soon afterwards when a kick downfield saw ex-London Welsh wing Phil McKenzie, on his Sharks debut, force opposite number James Simpson-Daniel to take the ball over his own line and concede a scrum five.
Two penalties from halfway by Arscott increased the Sale lead and Gloucester added to their own frustrations when prop Nick Wood was sent to the sin-bin shortly before half-time for diving illegally into a ruck.
After the break, Gloucester were struck by the second controversial TMO decision. This time, MacLeod laid-off a pass to Cueto which saw the winger nutmeg the ball through the legs of Simpson-Daniel for Forsyth to chase and dive over for the score.
But there were howls of derision from the Kingsholm faithful as they thought Forsyth was offside.
Again, Gloucester went down to 14 men when England centre Billy Twelvetrees was lucky to only receive a yellow card when twisting Cueto over in a tip-tackle.
But finally, on the hour, the Cherry and Whites converted an attack into points when Trinder found a gap in the half-back position and sprinted through from 25 metres under the posts to make Burns' conversion easy.
And when Burns booted a 27-metre penalty, the momentum had switched and Gloucester had found their feet. The fly-half added another seconds later from 35 metres which pulled his side back to within three points.
Yet Sale would not be denied and a drop goal from Joe Ford from 20 metres restored Sale's six-point lead and was enough to see them home and leave Gloucester with only a losing bonus point for their troubles.
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Aviva Premiership Table
|Friday 5th September|
|19:45||Northampton vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 6th September|
|14:00||Sale vs Bath|
|14:00||Saracens vs Wasps|
|15:00||Leicester vs Newcastle|
|16:30||London Irish vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 7th September|
|14:00||London Welsh vs Exeter|
|Friday 12th September|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Saracens|
|Saturday 13th September|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Sale|
|15:00||Bath vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Exeter vs Leicester|
|Sunday 14th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs London Irish|
|Friday 19th September|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Exeter|
|Saturday 20th September|
|14:00||Sale vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Saracens|
|15:15||Bath vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st September|
|14:00||Newcastle vs Northampton|
|Friday 26th September|
|19:45||London Welsh vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 27th September|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Sale|
|15:15||Northampton vs Bath|
|Sunday 28th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Newcastle|
|14:00||Exeter vs Harlequins|
|Friday 3rd October|
|19:45||Bath vs Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com