Gloucester fight back for win
Gloucester staged a storming second-half fightback at Kingsholm to ignite their Aviva Premiership campaign after an opening day debacle against champions Northampton.
The west country club, smashed 53-6 by Saints, trailed Sale 17-6 at half-time after the Sharks ran in tries by wing Tom Arscott, scrum-half Chris Cusiter and full-back Luke McLean.
Danny Cipriani had run the show for Sale, playing a creative role in all three touchdowns, but Gloucester were transformed after the break as wing Jonny May and full-back Rob Cook scored tries prior to a late penalty try, while scrum-half Greig Laidlaw kicked 19 points in a 34-27 victory.
It was rough justice on Cipriani especially, who also slotted two conversions and a penalty and claimed a late touchdown that secured two losing bonus points, yet Sale now go into next Saturday's home game against London Welsh having lost their first two league fixtures.
New-look Gloucester were at sixes and sevens for most of the opening period as they looked to shake off any lingering effects of a Franklin's Gardens hangover, and Sale did not require a second invitation to compound their misery.
Cipriani set up Arscott for an opening try inside two minutes, then further fine work created the attacking spark that enabled Cusiter and then McLean to prosper.
There appeared no way back for Gloucester, given Sale's dominance, yet a combination of Scotland international Laidlaw's impressive accuracy and May's elusiveness sunk the Sharks.
Gloucester paraded all their major summer signings for Premiership home debuts while Sale handed a first start to Georgian hooker Shalva Mamukashvili in a team captained by flanker David Seymour, as they targeted an immediate riposte after losing at home against Bath seven days ago.
And the visitors made a sparkling start, going ahead through a well-executed try that had its origins in poor Gloucester lineout work.
Wales hooker Richard Hibbard's overthrow allowed Sale an attacking platform and Cipriani's cleverly-placed kick was gathered by Arscott, who comfortably brushed off tame Gloucester defensive efforts.
Cipriani failed to land the touchline conversion attempt, but Sale were on their way despite lock Nathan Hines' early departure through injury, while Gloucester saw flanker Jacob Rowan carried off during the initial flurries.
Cipriani was in the thick of things again after Sale absorbed a lengthy spell of Gloucester pressure, backing himself to gather his own kick ahead on halfway and sending a supporting Cusiter sprinting over for an outstanding try.
The former England fly-half's conversion made it 12-0 midway through the first period, and there was worse to come for Gloucester as Sale extended their advantage before half-time.
Gloucester tried to attack through wing May, but when the move broke down and referee Greg Garner penalised the home side, Cipriani again reacted quickest as he eyed space before wing Tom Brady's inside ball allowed McLean a clear run.
Two Laidlaw penalties sandwiched the McLean touchdown and Gloucester could have few complaints as they trooped off 17-6 adrift, having conceded 11 tries in just 120 minutes of Premiership rugby this term.
The home side were transformed straight after half-time, though, as 11 points in nine dominant minutes hauled them level.
Laidlaw added two more penalties, then centre Henry Trinder kicked ahead for livewire May to capitalise on acres of space for a try that put Gloucester on level terms.
Sale looked shell-shocke, and they suddenly had it all to do after dominating the first half through Cipriani's excellence.
A long-range Cipriani penalty edged Sale back in front, but their defence was unlocked again 16 minutes from time when May turned provider and Cook finished off wide out.
Laidlaw's superb touchline conversion opened up a four-point advantage, and then he sealed the deal with a later penalty - his fifth - before he converted a penalty try following relentless scrum pressure to get Gloucester's season up and running, although Cipriani deservedly had the last word when he converted his own try.