Heineken Cup: Danny Cipriani inspires incredible Sale Sharks comeback
Last Updated: 14/10/12 3:30pm
Sale Sharks finally claimed their first win of the season as they staged an incredible comeback to beat Cardiff Blues 34-33 at the City of Salford Stadium.
The Sharks looked down and out as they trailed 30-12 early in the second half after an Alex Cuthbert hat-trick for the Blues, but Sale substitute Danny Cipriani turned the game on its head.
The former England fly-half scored Sale's first try to light the comeback spark and then helped set up two more, as the Sharks ended their six-game losing streak in thrilling fashion.
Leigh Halfpenny - from all of 54 metres - and Nick Macleod exchanged early penalties before the game exploded into life when Jamie Roberts powered through the Sale defensive line off a scrum-move and Alex Cuthbert was on hand to score under the posts.
Two minutes later Blues had their second try, this time through a superb handling move from deep again finished off by Cuthbert, who was able to trot in unopposed.
Three Macleod penalties kept Sale in touch but from a re-start after the second of those kicks, Cardiff got over once again. This time hooker Marc Breeze charged up the middle and looked around to find Cuthbert racing past on his shoulder for his hat-trick try.
When Halfpenny kicked another penalty from inside his own half early in the second half, the contest looked over. But Cipriani - who came on for Macleod on 49 minutes - had other ideas.
Five minutes later he exchanged passes with Mark Cueto as Sale finally found an attacking edge and the try-line. Next his perfectly-weighted pass put Jonny Leota clear to set up Mark Jennings to score under the posts.
Cardiff were reeling and after Lewis Jones was sin-binned for offside in front of his own line, Sale took a scrum and prop Tony Buckley crashed over from close range.
Rob Miller showed great composure to knock over a difficult conversion and edge Sale ahead at 31-30 with five minutes left.
Almost immediately Cardiff were pinged for holding onto the ball in the tackle in their own half and Miller stretched the lead to four points.
Cardiff had a chance to drive a penalty into the corner with just two minutes remaining but bizarrely opted for a kick at goal.
Halfpenny duly landed his seventh kick from seven attempts but the visitors could not get out of their own half after the re-start and Sale hung on for a famous victory.
It is the sort of result - and performance - which could kick-start their season. It could also do the same for Cipriani's stuttering career.