Will Addison's penalty edges Sale past Newcastle
Vereniki Goneva's hat-trick proved to be in vain as Will Addison's late penalty edged Sale Sharks to a crucial 26-24 triumph over Newcastle Falcons at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Newcastle scored two tries in the opening 30 miutes through Juan Pablo Socino and Goneva, but Sale produced an excellent 10 minutes to lead at the interval.
Denny Solomona and Byron McGuigan both went over, adding to Addison's two earlier penalties, as the Sharks went into the break 18-12 ahead.
Bryn Evans scored 10 minutes into the second half to give the Sharks hope of ending their barren Premiership spell, but Goneva put that in significant doubt when he went over twice.
However, Addison was the hero five minutes from time with a vital penalty.
Having been drawn towards the relegation battle following a poor run of results, the Sharks needed a positive result to ease the pressure and, despite a difficult start, they managed to secure a crucial win.
They were dealt a blow before kick-off with AJ MacGinty pulling out through injury and those woes continued into the opening stages of the match.
Dean Richards' men were immediately awarded a penalty and, after Joel Hodgson's penalty hit the upright, Socino showed a poacher's instinct to collect the rebound and touch down.
Hodgson added the conversion before the hosts hit back. After controlling possession inside the opposition half, Newcastle infringed and Addison duly reduced the arrears from the tee.
He then made it a one-point game following a second successful effort, a score they deserved on the balance of play.
However, the Greater Manchester outfit were making basic defensive errors and the Falcons were capitalising.
When Magnus Lund got a hand to a visiting lineout there seemed to be nothing on, but Goneva collected the ball, spotted a hole in the Sale rearguard and brilliantly scampered over.
At 12-6 that could have been a significant hammer blow to the home side's chances, but the Falcons' ill-discipline was keeping them in contention.
Goneva went from hero to villain, receiving a yellow card for kicking the ball out of Addison's hands, and Steve Diamond's team benefited from his absence.
Following a five-metre scrum the ball was shifted right and, with the Fijian wing off the field, Solomona had the space to weave his way across the whitewash.
With Addison kicking the conversion, the hosts were ahead for the first time in the match and they extended that buffer on the stroke of half-time.
This time Solomona was the instigator, breaking down the blindside before being hauled down just short of the line.
McGuigan then picked up and went over from close range as Sale took a six-point advantage into the interval.
The hosts maintained that momentum and scored their third try when good hands on the left-hand side allowed Evans to touch down.
Despite having what seemed like a comfortable lead, the Sharks have had a tendency recently to make poor decisions and once again they proceeded to hand their opponents opportunities.
Twice in five minutes Goneva pounced on loose passes by the home side's forwards and both times he just had the legs to finish and complete his hat-trick.
Hodgson missed the first conversion but Sonatane Takulua nailed the second as the Falcons moved ahead once more.
However, it was not the end of the scoring and, when Diamond's men marched Newcastle backwards at the scrum, Addison kicked Sale to victory.