Exeter Chiefs take a stride towards home Premiership play-off with comeback win over Sale Sharks

Sports Staff
The Independent
Don Armand goes over the line to score Exeter's fourth try: Getty
Don Armand goes over the line to score Exeter's fourth try: Getty

Exeter overturned a 14-point first-half deficit to defeat Sale 30-25 and move level on points with Wasps at the top of the Aviva Premiership table.

Struggling Sale had looked set to upset the hosts at Sandy Park when they built a 19-5 lead just before half-time thanks to a try from in-form wing Denny Solomona and the boot of AJ MacGinty.

But Exeter turned things round in impressive fashion to claim a bonus-point victory that sees them join Wasps on 64 points ahead of the leaders' clash with Worcester on Sunday.

Luke Cowan-Dickie scored just before the break to add to Kai Horstmann's earlier try, and then Olly Woodburn and Don Armand crossed in the second half to decide the contest. Henry Slade added the rest of Exeter's points with two conversions and two penalties.

Playing with the advantage of a keen wind in their favour, Sale dominated the opening period with a couple of early bursts from Solomona threatening the Chiefs' line.

Strong defence from Exeter kept the game scoreless but after 10 minutes, Sale took the lead with a well-struck penalty from MacGinty after the home side infringed at a scrum on halfway.

Solomona scored a breakaway try for Sale (Getty)
Solomona scored a breakaway try for Sale (Getty)

Five minutes later, MacGinty extended the lead with a second penalty, but a poor kick from him then gave Exeter a platform in the Sale half.

Bursts from Ian Whitten and Mitch Lees had the Sale defence on the back foot but Stuart Townsend's telegraphed pass was intercepted by Solomona, who raced 100 metres to score. It was the wing's 10th try in only 11 appearances for the club since joining from rugby league side Castleford.

MacGinty added the extras to Solomona's try to leave Sale 13-0 up, but Exeter finally got themselves on the scoreboard after 25 minutes when some excellent inter-passing ended with Thomas Waldrom providing the scoring pass for Horstmann.

From the restart, Exeter back Phil Dollman carelessly dropped the ball and at the resulting scrum Chiefs were penalised, allowing MacGinty to knock over his third penalty.

Exeter continued to have problems in the scrum and the concession of another penalty saw MacGinty again on target two minutes before interval, putting Sale 14 points clear of their opponents.

However, with the half almost up, Exeter scored scored a crucial try when Cowan-Dickie finished off a driving line-out.

Slade converted to leave Sale 19-12 ahead at half-time but such was the strength of the wind, an advantage of seven points seemed insufficient as the visitors turned to face the elements.

That prediction seemed likely when five minutes after the restart, Exeter collected their third try with Woodburn outflanking the cover defence to score.

Slade missed the conversion but kicked a penalty on the 50-minute mark to put his side in front for the first time before MacGinty regained Sale's lead with his fifth penalty.

Exeter made hard work of rewarding their second-half superiority but, with 14 minutes remaining, they picked up their bonus point when captain Armand forced his way over.

Sale continued to battle hard and, despite a late penalty from Slade, they were able to pick up a deserved bonus point when MacGinty kicked his sixth penalty in the last minute.

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