Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks' comeback stuns Exeter Chiefs
Last Updated: 09/02/13 8:43am
Mark Cueto became the most prolific finisher in Aviva Premiership history as Sale Sharks came from behind to boost their survival hopes with a 21-16 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Salford City Stadium.
Cueto, the former England wing, crossed in the left corner in the 53rd minute for his 76th Premiership try, surpassing ex-Sale team-mate Steve Hanley's record.
Sale trailed 13-5 at the break despite Daniel Braid's 17th-minute try but Cueto's effort sparked a comeback that earned the league's bottom side their third win of the season. They now trail London Irish, who have a game in hand, by one point.
Exeter dominated the opening period; Gareth Steenson kicked a pair of penalties and converted Watsoni Votu's 34th-minute try to build the visitors' lead, which had grown to 16-5 when Steenson added his third penalty early in the second half.
But Cueto's try was converted by Rob Miller and two penalties - one from Miller and the other via a post from Danny Cipriani - moved Sale in front for the first time after 64 minutes.
Nick Macleod's late drop goal padded the lead five points and the TMO came to Sale's rescue with less than a minute left on the clock when Jack Nowell's try was ruled out for a forward pass in the build-up.
Exeter wing Nowell had a night to forget, he also wasted the chance to open the scoring when he knocked on with the line at his mercy, although the Chiefs did eventually take the lead when an infringement led to Steenson slotting a penalty on 15 minutes.
The Sharks were the next to threaten after being awarded a penalty from the restart. Instead of going for the posts, they went for the corner, a decision which paid off when Braid touched down from a driving maul.
Despite that setback, the away side continued to control proceedings with Steenson and Will Chudley dictating operations from half-back.
Stand-off Steenson put the Chiefs back in front with his second penalty and that was extended through Votu's try six minutes before half-time.
Sireli Naqelevuki made a rumbustious charge through the middle before the ball was spread wide to Jason Shoemark. The Kiwi made further inroads and Votu capped touched down.
The second period initially continued in the same vein with Exeter looking the livelier and their fly-half duly kicked them further into the lead.
But to their credit Sale stormed back. An excellent move which involved forwards and backs alike ended in Cueto going over for his milestone moment, Miller converting.
Miller soon added a penalty to reduce the arrears to one point with 20 minutes remaining and, when Exeter replacement Kai Horstmann was sin-binned for persistent team infringements, Cipriani took the Sharks into a lead.
Macleod's drop goal added some insurance and Sale were able to hold on in a frantic finale.
Aviva Premiership 2012/13 Round 14
Harlequins' 10-match winning streak came to an end as London Wasps held on for a 17-16 victory at the Twickenham Stoop.
Full-back Tom Homer kicked 19 points to help London Irish upset the odds with a 29-16 victory over Saracens.
Bath claimed a 32-9 bonus-point victory over Worcester in the battle between eighth and ninth in the Aviva Premiership.