Lowly Cipriani misses late chance as Sale Sharks draw with Newcastle Falcons
Danny Cipriani missed a last-minute penalty and Sale Sharks had to settle for a 15-15 draw against Newcastle Falcons.
The Falcons earned their first points of the Aviva Premiership season by holding the home side at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Newcastle scored the only try of the first half through Rob Vickers while Mike Delany also added a penalty, but four three-pointers from Cipriani took Sale into the lead at the interval.
The Sharks' stand-off then added a fifth penalty before the Falcons levelled matters through Jon Welsh's touchdown and Tom Catterick's conversion.
Catterick and the Sale fly-half had the chance to score late on but both efforts went off target as the teams had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Dean Richards' Falcons men had endured a torrid start to the campaign, losing all four of their Premiership matches going into this encounter.
Needless penalties, as well as a frail defensive line, have been the main source of consternation for the Tynesiders.
Early on, those discipline issues were prevalent and, following a Sale driving maul which took play into the opposition 22, the visitors infringed. Cipriani was on target in difficult conditions and the Sharks moved into a 3-0 lead after two minutes.
To the Falcons' credit, confidence did not appear be waning as they put the hosts' rearguard under pressure for the first time.
With the rain making handling difficult, the away side did well to hold the ball for long enough to earn a three-point attempt, which Delany duly converted.
That was to prove the fly-half's final scoring contribution as he suffered a nasty-looking leg injury.
Catterick came on in his place and was immediately on the receiving end of a powerful Tommy Taylor charge, a run that led to another penalty.
The Sharks pivot managed to bisect the uprights for the second time to regain their advantage, but Newcastle were generally managing to keep the Manchester outfit on the back foot.
Michael Young was at the centre of proceedings and the scrum-half's intelligent chip over the home team's cover defence ended in the first try of the game.
Although Tom Arscott managed to collect the ball while retreating towards his own the line, the winger was turned over and, after a succession of phases, Vickers burrowed across the whitewash from close range.
Richards' side were the better team in attack, but infringements in their own 22 were proving costly. They conceded two kickable attempts late in the first half, both of which Cipriani converted, and Sale went into the break 12-8 ahead.
Conditions in the opening period were atrocious, but they arguably worsened in the second 40 minutes and both teams struggled to find any continuity.
Mistakes were unsurprisingly prominent and, when Young misjudged the flight of the ball, the Sharks were awarded a penalty, which the hosts' stand-off kicked for a seven-point buffer.
The rain settled down in the latter stages but both teams were struggling to find a way through. That was until nine minutes from time when the Falcons set up camp in the Sharks' 22.
Welsh powered over and Catterick converted to deservedly bring the scores level.
The fly-half had the opportunity to take them ahead, but the pivot's effort was wide. Cipriani then had his attempt with time up but he was also off target.