Exeter make sure they are number one
Win over Saracens means Chiefs top Premiership pile.
Exeter ensured they would finish top of the Aviva Premiership at the end of the regular season with a hard-fought 34-19 win over Sale before a sell-out crowd at Sandy Park.
Their tries came from Nic White, Jack Yeandle, Greg Holmes and Lachie Turner, with Joe Simmonds converting all three and kicking a penalty. Gareth Steenson also added a penalty and a conversion.
Despite the defeat, Sale remain in contention for a valuable European Champions Cup place for next season – but they will need to beat Leicester at home in their final fixture to have any chance of securing it.
Byron McGuigan scored two tries for the visitors, with Andrei Ostrikov getting the other. AJ MacGinty added two conversions.
Exeter took an early lead with a Simmonds penalty after his brother, Sam, had taken Chiefs into the opposition 22 with a 40-metre burst.
However Sale soon responded with the first try when a clever kick from MacGinty saw McGuigan win the race to touchdown.
Chiefs regained the ascendancy when White darted over, after Sam Hill was held up over the line resulting in a succession of five-metre scrums.
Two minutes later, Exeter had their second after Sharks lost possession on halfway. The hosts counter-attacked in style as Turner burst through a huge gap before side-stepping Will Addison to race over.
Chiefs looked set to take control but five minutes before the interval, Ostrikov drove over from close range, with MacGinty’s conversion leaving Sale only three points adrift at half-time – 17-14.
The home side began the second half strongly and aided by ill-discipline from their opponents were able to easily gain a platform in the Sale 22.
From there, they capitalised when captain Yeandle, was sent over the line by Don Armand – but Sale would not lie down. The visitors were unlucky not to be awarded a third try when the TMO ruled that Faf De Klerk had knocked on as he wriggled over.
With 18 minutes remaining, Thomas Waldrom – on his 35th birthday – came on for possibly his last appearance at Sandy Park before returning to New Zealand after an impressive career with the Chiefs.
Sale looked to have set up a tense finish when De Klerk’s pass allowed McGuigan to finish well for his second try, bringing his side to within five points.
However, Steenson’s penalty and a late try from Holmes deprived them of what could prove to be a crucial bonus point.