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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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|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle Falcons 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
|Sunday 4th January|
|London Welsh 13 - 24 Harlequins|
|Wasps 41 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Leicester Tigers 17 - 8 Bath|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|Exeter 25 - 26 Gloucester|
|Saracens 22 - 6 London Irish|
|Friday 2nd January|
|Northampton 39 - 31 Newcastle Falcons|
|Sunday 28th December|
|Gloucester 23 - 30 Wasps|
|Saturday 27th December|
|Harlequins 25 - 30 Northampton|
|Newcastle Falcons 23 - 25 Saracens|
|Bath 31 - 14 Exeter|
|Sale Sharks 30 - 32 Leicester Tigers|
|Friday 26th December|
|London Irish 24 - 9 London Welsh|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Wasps 48 - 16 London Irish|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Gloucester 16 - 39 Bath|
|Northampton 23 - 19 Leicester Tigers|
|Saracens 78 - 7 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 15 - 7 Newcastle Falcons|
|Friday 19th December|
|Sale Sharks 18 - 11 Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com