Danny Cipriani ends on winning note for Sale
Danny Cipriani's final game for Sale ended in a 21-15 victory over Newcastle which was good enough for a top six finish in the Aviva Premiership.
Cipriani had a hand in Sale's first try but the Sharks scored just two tries to Newcastle's three - a hat-trick by skipper Nili Latu - and it was the lack of reliable goal-kicker which cost the Falcons, while Joe Ford kicked two vital second half penalties for Sale.
The visitors dominated the opening 10 minutes with Cipriani pulling the strings although number eight TJ Ioane was a menacing force punching holes in midfield as the Sharks had Newcastle under real pressure.
So much so that three attempted clearing kicks were charged down and the Falcons were lucky to escape each time as they were when Cipriani chipped wide and Will Addison snapped the ball up but was denied a try by a foot in touch.
Sale finally got their reward in the 11th minute when they drove a line-out and skipper David Seymour touched down.
It was no more than they deserved and they went close again when Andrei Ostikov was driven over as Newcastle struggled to halt the Sale pack.
At least Newcastle managed to hold the ball up and there was no second try for Sale.
Cirpiani increased his side's lead with a penalty for not releasing which made it 8-0.
Newcastle reduced the arrears when they drove a line-out and Falcons number eight Latu touched down to make it 8-5.
Ioane punched another hole and Cipriani's instinctive offload allowed centre Sam James to bump off two tacklers and score a very good try, converted by Cipriani for 15-5, in the 24th minute.
Addison was harshly judged to have tip-tackled Watson and from the penalty into the corner, Newcastle drove Latu over for his second try fives minutes from half-time, Mike Delany missing the conversion again to leave it 15-10.
Right on half-time Newcastle did well to fend off another punishing Sale attack, turn it over and win a penalty 45 metres out but Juan Pablo Socino could not convert.
Flanker Dan Temm nearly gave Newcastle a sensational start to the second half, breaking through and fending off Cipriani. It seemed he must score but Cipriani recovered to catch him and forced a knock-on right on the line.
Newcastle spurned a penalty kick at goal to go to the corner again and drove the line-out maul for Latu to surge off the back and score his hat-trick and level the scores at 15-15 in the 48th minute.
Joe Ford's 51st minute penalty for not releasing eased Sale back in front at 18-15.
In a frantic few minutes, Newcastle spurned another penalty kick at goal but this time could not make the line-out drive pay off.
Alex Tait then crossed the line but he lost the ball forward as he attempted to touch down.
It looked a crucial mistake, especially when Ford kicked another penalty for a 21-15 lead with 10 minutes left to edge Sale ever close to a top six spot.
With three minutes left Newcastle again went to the corner with a kickable penalty but Sale's defence was more than adequate and they forced the penalty turnover and assure the win.