10:09pm Friday 3rd January 2014
NEWCASTLE Falcons slipped to only their second-ever home defeat in the Aviva Premiership against Sale Sharks after a 16-8 loss at Kingston Park.
Andy Saull's first-half try and the impressive form of new signing Sinoti Sinoti were two bright spots for Dean Richards' troops but in tough conditions they missed out on a losing bonus point.
The misfiring boot of Phil Godman cost the Falcons dearly while Tom Brady's try in the opening period and the accurate boot of the in-form Danny Cipriani secured victory for the Sharks.
After the break the heavens opened and a solitary Nick MacLeod penalty was the only score of the second half, the Sharks holding on for only their second victory in their last 21 visits to the North- East.
Kieran Brookes carried with venom and won the Falcons their first penalty of the game in the third minute and Godman made no mistake to opening the scoring.
But no sooner had they gone in front than the hosts were penalised for not rolling away and the in-form Cipriani made no mistake to level the scores at 3-3.
Falcons' breakdown discipline was letting them down, Noah Cato one of the many to infringe but Cipriani missed a 13th minute penalty to let them off the hook.
Dean Richards' troops looked the more threatening with ball in hand and a Saull initial break down the left had them deep into Sale territory at the midway point in the first half.
But despite their more impressive work with the ball, Godman's misfiring right boot appeared to be costing them, the fly half twice missing penalties to leave the scores level after the first quarter.
And Sale made Godman pay for his inaccuracy moments later as the attack was moved through the Sale midfield first to the left and then to the right as winger Brady made the most of the overlap to dive over.
Cipriani added the extras from the right touchline and the Sharks had a 10-3 lead that flattered them somewhat.
New signing Sinoti was one of the bright sparks in the first half for the hosts, however, and a fine break down the left from him won a penalty that Godman kicked to the corner instead of having another shy at the posts.
And their ambition was rewarded when, after their first drive was repelled, the pack spun left and Saull barrelled over to make it 10-8, Godman unable to add the extras again.
But the Falcons' ill-discipline was still a worry and eventually referee Andrew Small had no choice but to send Carlo del Fava to the sin bin after persistent team offences.
The Falcons defence held firm until the stroke of half-time when Cipriani slotted over his second penalty of the night for a 13-8 lead.
After the break both sides were locked in a stalemate in worsening conditions as Mike Blair and Del Fava both went off injured for the hosts and errors on both sides were preventing either team from mounting any real pressure.
Cipriani had the first scoring chance of the second half but skewed his 62nd minute penalty wide.
But the Sharks were the dominant side and comfortably held on for only their second away league win this season, MacLeod's penalty late on denying the Falcons a losing bonus point.
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