Newcastle 40 Sale 25: Newcastle on the ascent after Tait and Flood secure supremacy

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The Independent Online

Mathew Tait started this marvellously dramatic match and Toby Flood completed it despite an appalling performance by the referee, Martin Fox, who awarded three times as many penalties to Sale as to Newcastle. Although Sale were unable to take advantage - they converted one of four tries and missed with five penalties - it did nothing to spoil a terrific contest. Four tries a piece.

Tait and Flood were in terrific form, running the first half, with Tait setting up two tries while scoring the third himself. Thereafter Flood, as well as converting all three tries, opened the penalty gates with four. Sale, always a handful with their powerful set of forwards, were only once in front and then had to play catch-up, with John Rudd sealing their fate with a stoppage-time try, which Flood converted to take his side two places up the table.

There was action from the start. Tait received the ball on the left and kicked it straight to Jason Robinson. The next time he received it from Flood, Tait took on the challenge and opened up the field for Anthony Elliott to grab a superb try. Flood converted.

Sale's response was to win a penalty which Lee Thomas goaled. He missed with the next attempt, and the next, so the Falcons stayed ahead by 7-3, when they could have been losing 9-3.

It is one of Newcastle's most noticeable failures, among others, that they give sides with pace the space to score tries. Their next lapse was to allow Chris Bell to escape up the left channel, to hand the ball to Chris Mayor for a try. Thomas was injured kicking the conversion, allowing Daniel Larrechea on as a replacement.

The next two tries were gems. The first was a repeat of the opening try, with Tait handing to May. For the next, Tait went on his own with a dream of a sidestep to leave Robinson clutching at air for a try at the posts. Flood converted both scores.

Back came Sale with a try in the left corner for Sébastien Bruno, followed by another in the right corner for Mayor. So, at half-time Sale had recovered from 21-8 to 21-18.

Newcastle soon made that 27-18. The first penalty went to Flood, the second was when Bruno attacked Elliott, earning a yellow card when it could have so easily have been red. Flood banged that over and then slotted a third when Sébastien Chabal gave away the next penalty by treating a ruck as if it was his own. At 30-18 there were still 18 minutes to play

Chris Bell got Sale's fourth try and with it a bonus point, which Richard Wigglesworth converted. Bell added another penalty, though after a tumultuous last gasp, with the final whistle imminent, Rudd got the last try, which Flood converted from the touchline. What a finish. What a match.

Newcastle: Tries Elliott, May, Tait, Rudd; Conversions Flood 4; Penalties Flood 4. Sale: Tries Mayor 2, Bruno, Bell; Conversion Wigglesworth; Penalty Thomas.

Newcastle: A Elliott; T May, M Tait (M Burke, 68), M Mayerhofler (L Crichton, 49), J Rudd; T Flood, J Grindal (L Dickson, 68); J McDonnell (capt) (J Golding, 68), M Thompson (A Long, 69), M Ward, M Sorenson, J Oakes, G Parling, B Woods, R Winter.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); B Foden, M Taylor, C Bell, C Mayor; L Thomas (D Larrechea, 19), R Wigglesworth (A Villk, 78); L Faure (B Evans, 54), S Bruno (A Titterrell, 69), S Turner, D Schofield, C Day (S Cox, 73), C Jones (S Chabal, 22), M Lund, J Martin Fernandez-Lobbe (A Titterrell, 51-55).

Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).