Gloucester Rugby 20-16 Sale Sharks, Kingsholm
Gloucester managed to overcome resistance from Sale Sharks as they went on to claim a 20-16 victory in their Aviva Premiership face-off at Kingsholm on Saturday.
AJ MacGinty scored all Sale's points with a try, conversion and three penalties, but tries from David Halaifonua and Ben Vellacott and 10 points from the boot of Billy Twelvetrees edged Gloucester over the line.
Aimless kicking from Sale enabled the home team to make a bright opening, with Tom Marshall and Charlie Sharples both testing the Sharks' defence with some penetrative bursts before Gloucester lost a turnover in the opposition 22.
MacGinty burst away down the right flank for Sale to have their first period of pressure and they were rewarded when he kicked them into the lead with an 11th-minute penalty.
Seven minutes later, MacGinty was again on target to give his side a 6-0 lead at the end of a disjointed first quarter.
Ill-discipline was proving costly for the hosts - they conceded five penalties in the first 20 minutes - but they sprung to life when a clever piece of play from Andy Symons sent Lewis Ludlow haring into the Sharks' half.
Vellacott was up in support but Ludlow delayed his pass to the speedy scrum-half and the chance of the first try was lost. Sale were then penalised and Twelvetrees had a good chance to put his side on the scoreboard but his 35-metre kick went badly astray.
Sharples enlivened proceedings with a thrilling 55-metre run into the Sale 22 and, when Gloucester declined a simple penalty in favour of an attacking scrum, it proved the correct call as Halaifonua squeezed over in the corner.
Twelvetrees fired over the touchline conversion before Sale suffered a blow when number eight Josh Strauss departed with a shoulder injury, but they still led 9-7 at the interval after MacGinty succeeded with his third penalty.
It was Gloucester who had the momentum after the restart and, after their pack had battered the visitors' line with a number of line-out drives, Vellacott was on hand to see an opportunity to dart over.
Gloucester were not ahead long as, within three minutes, Sale had their first try. From a line-out on the home 22, Faf De Klerk burst away to feed MacGinty, who brushed aside some weak tackling to force his way over.
That score for Sale was very much against the run of play as the home pack were now firmly in control, penning their opponents deep in their own half, and the hosts deservedly sealed victory when two 50-metre penalties from Twelvetrees sailed over.
Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the world...it can only be the Aviva Premiership.
12 teams compete in the league over a season, playing every team both home and away, before four move into the playoffs and one is relegated.
The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?
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