Vickers drives Falcons nearer that top four
ANOTHER week, another poor start and another incredible ending involving the Sharks.
Only this time, it ended in desolation for the Salford-based outfit as Rob Vickers’ last minute score saw Newcastle emerge victorious in this top four eliminator.
The previous round had seen Steve Diamond’s charges produce a stirring response after going 17-0 down to Wasps, winning the game in the final minute through Marland Yarde’s try, but here it was the Falcons who provided the late drama.
Sale had overturned a 25-0 deficit to lead 30-28 but the Tynesiders are a resilient bunch this season and gave the Sharks a taste of their own medicine.
Newcastle re-gathered themselves for one last assault on the Sharks’ line. Vickers eventually rewarded their pressure to leave semi-final qualification within their grasp.
“If we beat Leicester and Wasps it is very much in our hands,” director of rugby Dean Richards said. “Top four would be massive for us.”
Newcastle certainly showed their play-off credentials in the opening 27 minutes, scything through the Sharks’ porous rearguard with ease, and had the bonus-point secured by the half-hour mark.
Sale were utterly woeful. Tackling appeared optional, mistakes were prevalent and the lineout was initially picked apart by Calum Green.
The reverse fixture saw a memorable set-piece meltdown by Sharks and the lock who tormented them at the AJ Bell Stadium started impressively.
After Joel Hodgson had kicked a penalty, Green got in front of the Sale jumpers to set the Tynesiders in motion. The Falcons went through the phases and good work from Sinoti Sinoti gave the second row a one-on-one with Paolo Odogwu and he duly finished out wide.
The excellent Gary Graham, who carried brilliantly on his return from injury, was the next to cross before Simon Hammersley handed off Odogwu to score their third.
Diamond’s men were all at sea and, even when Will Welch had been sin-binned for a needless infringement, they conceded again. Faf de Klerk’s poor kick was pounced upon by opposite number Michael Young and the scrum-half broke away before Scott Lawson burrowed over.
Sale were clearly agitated by their performance and it started to boil over, but it was what they needed to find some aggression in their game. Tries at the end of the first period from Ben Curry and Marland Yarde gave them hope and they took that momentum into the final 40 minutes.
Successive AJ MacGinty three-pointers reduced the arrears before the James brothers combined to send Yarde over for his second.
The Sharks led for the first time and, after Hodgson and MacGinty had traded penalties, they held it until the 79th minute, but Newcastle produced one final attack.
They remained patient and Vickers drove across the line from close range to snatch the victory and end another remarkable encounter.
Last-gasp heroes: Newcastle celebrate Rob Vickers’ try
Comeback: Ben Curry scores for Sale