Gloucester fight back to claim narrow win at Sale
The visitors triumphed 18-16 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Gloucester fought back from 13-0 down to open their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a hard-fought 18-16 victory over Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Johan Ackermann’s team finished third last season and signalled their potential for further progress with a spirited display.
Sale led 10-0 at the interval through Byron McGuigan’s try and Rob du Preez’s penalty nine minutes after the restart put them 13-0 up.
Yet Gloucester came back strongly and two tries in seven minutes from centre Mark Atkinson and winger Tom Marshall sent them on the road to a victory which saw Billy Twelvetrees claim eight points with the boot.
Sale went into the game boosted by a run of four straight victories in the Premiership Cup to reach the semi-finals.
Brothers Rob, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez started a Premiership game together for the first time while England wing Marland Yarde was among the Sale replacements after a year out with a serious knee injury.
Prop Jamal-Ford Robinson and scrum-half Joe Simpson made their first league starts for Gloucester with former Sale man Danny Cipriani at fly-half.
Sale led in the 16th minute when prop Akker van der Merwe embarked on a driving run through the heart of the Gloucester defence before producing a deft offload which sent McGuigan under the posts.
Rob du Preez added the conversion to make it 7-0 and then kicked a fine long-range penalty to make it 10-0 in the 30th minute.
Six minutes before the interval, Sale thought they had registered their second try when Dan du Preez found Sam James and his short pass sent Chris Ashton diving over in the right corner.
However, Simpson made a vital intervention as the former Saracens man attempted to ground the ball and no try was awarded.
Sale’s 10-0 interval advantage offered Gloucester encouragement but Rob du Preez booted another penalty in the 49th minute to extend the hosts’ lead.
Three minutes later, Gloucester were finally off the mark when Cipriani’s clever chipped kick behind the Sale defence found Marshall and he offloaded to Jason Woodward.
Woodard was hauled down just short of Sale’s line by Ashton but he managed to offload out of the tackle to Atkinson who burst over from close range.
Twelvetrees added the conversion to make it 13-7 and Gloucester began to move through the gears.
In the 56th minute they scored again when Cipriani’s fine long pass found Woodward advancing at pace inside the right channel and his offload sent Marshall racing over in the corner.
Twelvetrees could not convert from near the touchline but Sale’s lead was cut to a single point.
With 19 minutes remaining, Twelvetrees missed a penalty that would have put Gloucester ahead had he converted.
But in the 64th minute, the centre did not miss from a penalty just wide of the posts and the visitors led 15-13.
Three minutes later, Rob du Preez kicked a penalty to restore Sale’s lead at 16-15 before Twelvetrees booted another three-pointer to put Gloucester back in front at 18-16.
Sale could have snatched victory at the death but Rob du Preez’s last-minute penalty rebounded off a post as Gloucester, who had Freddie Clarke sinbinned late on, held on in dramatic fashion.