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Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks beat London Irish to end seven-game losing streak
Sale claimed their first Aviva Premiership win of the season at the eighth attempt as they beat London Irish 21-9 at City of Salford Stadium.
The Sharks were deserved winners after scoring the only two tries of the night in the first half through Nick Macleod and Johnny Leota, and while they remain bottom of the table, victory moves them to within four points of the Irish and Welsh Exiles.
Former England fly-half Danny Cipriani played a key role for Sale, setting up both first-half tries, as well as adding a conversion. Irish's response before the break came through a penalty from Ian Humphreys.
Humphreys kicked two more three-pointers in the second period to reduce the deficit, but two late Cipriani penalties sealed the victory.
Despite a nervy opening, solid set-piece work allowed the Sharks to gain a foothold in the match and after they had stolen an Irish lineout, the Sharks drove impressively and forced Irish to infringe, with Macleod edging the home team ahead with eight minutes gone.
It seemed to settle them down and they added to that lead soon after when fly-half Cipriani sent the full-back over.
London Irish did reduce the arrears when Humphreys kicked three points, but it was the Sharks who continued to threaten when Leota charged through the defensive line.
Although nothing came of that, it was not long before the Samoan outside centre was crossing the try-line. Cipriani was again the creator, as the stand-off's wonderfully delayed pass sent Leota through a gap and he shrugged off two would-be tacklers before touching down.
Cipriani converted to extend the advantage to a deserved 15-3 at half-time, but with a team that was so low on confidence, it was never a comfortable lead, especially when Humphreys ate into it just after the interval with a second three-pointer.
After Humphreys had broken the gain-line, Sale conceded another penalty which the fly-half duly converted. But as Irish pressed for more, the hosts remained composed and Cipriani sealed the victory with successive penalties from the tee.
Those late kicks also denied Sale's fellow strugglers a losing bonus point which may prove crucial in the relegation battle.
Victory was the perfect way to end a tumultuous week for the former champions, after the removal of Bryan Redpath as director of rugby.
Redpath was then installed as head coach on Wednesday, with chief executive Steve Diamond putting himself in charge of first-team duties.
On this evidence it is a move that has paid dividends just in time to give Sale realistic hope of salvaging their season - and their place in the top flight.
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Aviva Premiership Table
|Saturday 6th September|
|16:30||London Irish vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 14th September|
|15:00||Newcastle vs London Irish|
|Saturday 20th September|
|15:00||London Irish vs Saracens|
|Saturday 27th September|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Irish|
|Saturday 4th October|
|15:00||London Irish vs Northampton|
|Saturday 11th October|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Irish|
|Friday 24th October|
|European Rugby Challenge Cup|
|18:30||Grenoble vs London Irish|
|Saturday 1st November|
|15:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|Saturday 8th November|
|15:00||Wasps vs London Irish|
|Saturday 15th November|
|14:00||Sale vs London Irish|
|Saturday 22nd November|
|15:00||London Irish vs Bath|
|Saturday 29th November|
|15:00||London Irish vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 6th December|
|European Rugby Challenge Cup|
|TBC||Cardiff Blues vs London Irish|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com