Exeter climb to fourth after impressive win at Sale
Exeter Chiefs rose to fourth place in the Aviva Premiership with a highly impressive 21-3 victory over Sale at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Rob Baxter's side were up at the break after a penalty try and further scores from winger James Short and scrum-half Will Chudley put them in control.
It was no less than Exeter deserved for a dominant first-half display in which Sale barely ventured into their visitors' 22.
However, the Chiefs failed to clinch a fourth try and subsequent bonus point during a scoreless second half, while Sale slipped to a fourth straight defeat in all competitions.
Sharks hooker Rob Webber made his first Premiership start since he broke his arm on the opening day of the season.
Captain Josh Beaumont went to lock and Cameron Neild replaced him in the back row, while Johnny Leota and Tom Arscott came into the backline.
Exeter forward Don Armand featured for the first time since September as one of six changes made by Baxter, whose side struck first when they punished Sale's ill discipline in the eighth minute.
Aided by back-to-back penalties, the visitors created the field position to set up driving maul from a line-out on the right flank.
Referee Wayne Barnes awarded Exeter a penalty try and sent Beaumont to the sin-bin for his part in the infringements.
Gareth Steenson converted to make it 7-0 but Sale soon replied when fly-half AJ MacGinty booted a penalty to get his team off the mark.
Exeter continued to probe, however, and they fashioned a promising move in the 15th minute inside the left channel.
The ball went through several pairs of hands and found its way to openside flanker Kai Horstmann, whose intended pass for Sam Hill was intercepted by a Sale defender.
The Chiefs largely dominated territory and scored again on the back of another penalty in the 20th minute when a quick pass from Chudley sent Short over in the left corner.
Steenson's second conversion made it 14-3 and underlined Exeter's dominance before a third try duly arrived in the 35th minute.
Short found Hill with a deft pass inside the left channel and the centre then showed intelligence to send the supporting Chudley scampering clear.
Steenson's conversion made it 21-3 at the break and Sale's cause was dealt a further blow in the 50th minute when Ben Curry was forced off with an injury.
The match became a scrappy affair as chances grew scarce but rugby league convert Josh Charnley went close in the left corner with 16 minutes remaining before being hauled into touch.
Sale's second-half display saw a marked improvement from the first and Exeter replacement Michele Campagnaro was sin-binned during a late home rally.