Falcons safe as Sale falter
Newcastle staying up as Sale continue to struggle
By Rachel Griffiths. Last Updated: 23/04/10 10:27pm
Gopperth: Fine kicking display
Jimmy Gopperth produced a fine display to help Newcastle defeat relegation rivals Sale and secure their place in next season's Guinness Premiership.
The Kiwi unleashed a superb kicking performance to lift Falcons to a 32-30 victory over the Sharks, adding to his earlier try and a score from Micky Young.
Despite claiming a losing bonus point, Sale are now teetering dangerously on the brink of relegation as they head into their final game of the season, with the potential for things to get even worse if Worcester win at Leeds on Sunday.
Falcons captain Charlie Hayman failed a late fitness test and was replaced as skipper by Gopperth, who got things started for the visitors with two penalties in the first 12 minutes.
Newcastle were putting pressure on Sale's back line and Goppeth broke through in the 21st minute, finding the gap to touch down under the post, before adding the extras to put the visitors 13-0 ahead.
Sharks then pegged back the Falcons with a Charlie Hodgson penalty in the 25th minute before grabbing a try five minutes before the break.
The hosts played the ball neatly from right to left to allow Marika Vakacegu to go over in the corner, with fly-half Hodgson adding the conversion.
But Falcons had a nine-point lead going into half-time as Gopperth landed his third and fourth penalties of the night.
The 26-year-old struck again after restart, booting another three-pointer for the visitors before Hodgson pulled them back with three penalties in quick succession.
Sharks took control in the second half and a well-taken Hodgson drop goal in the 60th minute levelled the scores.
Newcastle were feeling the strain but outstanding efforts from the forwards allowed Micky Young to take advantage of weak Sharks defending and go over in the corner.
Gopperth added to his sensational kicking display by successfully converting but Sharks came straight back as Hodgson scored a penalty from the restart.
Sale took the lead for the first time with just minutes remaining, with Kristian Ormsby bundling over in the corner.
But Hodgson fumbled the conversion to make for a dramatic finish as Gopperth reclaimed Falcons' lead, and the former's missed drop goal at the close allowed Falcons to wrap up the win and breathe a sigh of relief as their spot in the premiership was secured.