Cipriani boots Sale to victory
Danny Cipriani returned from England duty to help steer Sale Sharks to within one point of the Aviva Premiership top six following a 23-6 triumph over Gloucester.
Johnny Leota's try and five points from Cipriani gave Sale a 10-6 advantage at the break.
James Hook provided the Cherry and Whites' response in the first half with two penalties, but they could not build on that in the second period as the Sharks dominated the third quarter.
The Red Rose pivot added two more three-pointers and converted Josh Beaumont's touchdown as they kept themselves in play-off contention and probably ended Gloucester's chances of reaching next season's European Champions Cup.
Both teams, irrespective of the rain-soaked conditions, were looking to move the ball through the hands as much as they could, but neither found much success with that method.
David Humphreys' side did manage to force a couple of penalties within the range of Hook, though, and the fly-half kicked the second of those to take the west country side into a 3-0 lead.
Back came the Sharks as they produced a sustained spell of pressure on the opposition line which, following consultation with the television match official, eventually saw the hosts awarded a try after Leota had touched down from close range.
Despite that setback, Gloucester were next to threaten as they displayed impressive patience in possession.
Callum Braley and Hook controlled operations from half-back and that almost freed the space for Sione Kalamafoni to break down the left-hand side, but a knock-on from the number eight ended the attack.
However, from the resultant scrum, the Cherry and Whites won a penalty and the visiting pivot was on target from the tee to reduce the arrears to one point.
That appeared to be the final action of the half but the hosts launched a superb attack with a minute remaining on the clock after a well-constructed set-piece.
It went through several pairs of hands before Andrei Ostrikov ceded possession. Still, Gloucester infringed in the following passage of play and Cipriani kicked the points to move Sale 10-6 in front at the interval.
Steve Diamond's men opened the second period looking to extend their lead and, as indiscipline started to creep into Gloucester's game, Cipriani duly capitalised.
He kicked two more three-pointers before the Sharks inflicted the killer blow.
Tom Arscott moved the hosts to within inches of the line and, with the Gloucester defence retreating, Beaumont finished it off. The fly-half, for the second time in the encounter, converted.
Nathan Hines and Cipriani were sin-binned, but the Sharks held out for a crucial win.