Greig Laidlaw kicks Gloucester to rare win at Sale
Stand-in fly-half Greig Laidlaw kicked Gloucester to their first Aviva Premiership triumph at Sale since 2001 following a 12-11 victory at the AJ Bell Stadium.
In a frustrating opening period where the effort was there but the quality was not, the sides went into the interval level at 6-6 via two penalties apiece from Danny Cipriani and Laidlaw, who had replaced the injured James Hook at number 10.
Sale were initially more clinical in the second period as Johnny Leota's try gave them the ascendency but the Sharks failed to build on that touchdown and two further Laidlaw three-pointers secured Gloucester victory.
David Humphreys' men have endured a disappointing season but, with this win, they still have an outside chance of European Champions Cup qualification.
Going into the game, little was seemingly riding on this encounter for the visitors and they set out with intent to move the ball through the hands.
Mark Atkinson, a late replacement for the ill Tom Marshall, and Matt Kvesic were particularly prominent and Gloucester were rewarded for their bright start with a Laidlaw penalty.
Sale looked to hit back through some positive play of their own. Sam James made a significant incursion into opposition territory and Cameron Neild did excellently to send Leota on a charge, but both moves broke down.
Despite that profligacy, the Sharks did manage to level matters after a penalty at the breakdown allowed Cipriani to bisect the uprights.
Steve Diamond's continued to look dangerous with ball in hand but the Cherry and Whites held on valiantly.
Excellent defence, especially by Kvesic, repelled the hosts and that enabled the away side to set up an attack. The impressive Atkinson did the hard work, breaking the first tackle and off-loading, before youngster Ollie Thorley sped through a hole.
Although they failed to register a try from that promising foray, another Sharks' infringement meant Laidlaw could regain his side's advantage.
Sale responded just shy of the interval via the boot of their England international pivot, but it was a disappointing 40 minutes for Diamond's men.
Those frustrations continued into the second period as the Cherry and Whites controlled territory. However, they were unable to benefit on the scoreboard and it was to prove costly when the home team scored the first try.
For arguably the only time in the match the hosts held on to the ball through a number of phases and moved play intelligently down the left-hand side.
The Sharks got to within inches of the line and, after several players had attempted to touch down from close range, Leota eventually powered across the whitewash.
With that potential hammer-blow Gloucester appeared to run out of ideas, but they battled back and remained in contention via Laidlaw's three-pointer to reduce the deficit to 11-9.
All the Cherry and Whites needed was one more scoring opportunity and it duly came via the whistle of referee Tom Foley. Laidlaw stepped up, converted and gave the visitors a superb win.