|Sale (14) 22|
|Tries: T Curry, R du Preez, Solomona Cons: R du Preez 2 Pen: R du Preez|
|Exeter (10) 32|
|Tries: S Simmonds, Vermeulen, Hogg, Cowan-Dickie Cons: J Simmonds 3 Pens: J Simmonds 2|
Exeter Chiefs underlined their title credentials as the Premiership leaders came from behind to secure a bonus-point win at Sale Sharks.
An early Sam Simmonds try put Exeter ahead but Sale quickly hit back with converted scores from Tom Curry and Rob du Preez for a 14-10 half-time lead.
However, Jacques Vermeulen and Stuart Hogg crossed to put the Chiefs back in front as the visitors took control.
Luke Cowan-Dickie scored Exeter’s fourth after Curry was sin-binned.
Denny Solomona notched a late consolation, with a fine finish in the corner despite pressure from Henry Slade, but it came too late for the Sharks to find another score which would have salvaged a bonus point.
Exeter’s second-half performance was epitomised by energy and determination, with Chiefs scoring 22 unanswered points to wrest command of the game from the Sharks.
The Devon side have now won both matches since the season resumed earlier this month following the coronavirus lockdown, and Rob Baxter’s men are firmly on course to reach a fifth consecutive Premiership final.
Exeter impress in second half
There was a lively opening at a breezy AJ Bell Stadium, with Olly Woodburn breaking through the Sale defence in the second minute and setting up Simmonds to score.
A powerful carry from Manu Tuilagi set the platform for Curry to crash over and level the scores five minutes later, and Du Preez put the Sharks in front in the 10th minute after evading four Exeter tackles.
Sale looked much improved in the first half from their showing in the defeat at Harlequins last Friday, but Exeter turned the game on its head after the break.
After a Du Preez penalty stretched the Sharks’ lead to seven points, Vermeulen muscled over from close range and Joe Simmonds converted to draw the Devon side level.
Soon afterwards a quick move from the Chiefs backs caught a flat-footed Sale defence out from a maul and Woodburn fed Hogg to make it 22-17.
The hosts’ hopes of a comeback were dented when England flanker Curry was shown yellow for a late hit on Hogg, and Cowan-Dickie crossed straight afterwards after taking a quick tap-and-go penalty five metres out.
Sale have now lost back-to-back games following the restart, and Steve Diamond’s side could find themselves under pressure from the pack chasing the play-off spots following the rest of the weekend’s programme.
Both sides play again on Tuesday, with Exeter travelling to Bristol Bears and Sale making the trip to Wasps.
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter:
“The points are fantastic but the bigger thing for me was just how we grew in the game because we were challenged.
“They brought the best out of us. We were on the back foot in the first half.
“We had to solve some problems and I thought we did that exceptionally well. We started to get momentum and it put us on the front foot.
“The reality is that there are still plenty of games to come. I know for a fact we’re not cemented in the top four yet.”
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond:
“Exeter are a good side. They don’t panic, they get into the right areas and play.
“It was crucial not getting anything just before half-time when we lost a line-out five metres out..
“I’m disappointed with our discipline again.
“The interpretations are difficult getting used to. There were examples of us getting penalised for what was said we were allowed to do.”
Sale: Hammersley; McGuigan, S James, Tuilagi, Yarde; R du Preez, de Klerk; Oosthuizen, van der Merwe, John, J-L du Preez, de Jager, Ross (capt), T Curry, D du Preez.
Replacements: Langdon, Harrison, Cooper-Wooley, Phillips, B Curry, Cliff, MacGinty, Solomona.
Sin-bin: T Curry (59).
Exeter Chiefs: Hogg; Cuthbert, Slade, Whitten, Woodburn; J Simmonds (capt), Maunder; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Gray, Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.
Replacements: Yeandle, Keast, Francis, Skinner, Kirsten, Hidalgo-Clyne, Steenson, Hendrickson.
Referee: Tom Foley.