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Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks grind out win over London Irish
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Sale moved into the top half of the Aviva Premiership with a dominant 15-3 victory over London Irish.
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.
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|Friday 27th February|
|19:45||Northampton vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Newcastle Falcons|
|15:00||Leicester Tigers vs Sale Sharks|
|15:15||Exeter vs Bath|
|Sunday 1st March|
|13:00||Wasps vs Gloucester|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Saturday 28th March|
|15:00||London Irish vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Leicester vs Exeter|
|15:15||Saracens vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 29th March|
|14:00||Sale vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Bath|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Bath|
|Saturday 11th April|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Gloucester|
|15:15||Saracens vs Leicester|
|Sunday 12th April|
|14:00||Exeter vs Northampton|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Sale|
|Saturday 25th April|
|14:00||Sale vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|London Irish 6 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Bath 13 - 21 Northampton|
|Harlequins 21 - 32 Exeter|
|Gloucester 48 - 10 London Welsh|
|Sale Sharks 14 - 10 Saracens|
|Friday 20th February|
|Newcastle 23 - 23 Wasps|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Wasps 37 - 6 Harlequins|
|London Welsh 12 - 52 Sale|
|Saracens 34 - 24 Bath|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Exeter 46 - 17 Newcastle|
|Friday 13th February|
|Leicester 18 - 15 Gloucester|
|Northampton 15 - 9 London Irish|
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com