A strong second-half performance from the Gloucester pack earned the hosts a deserved 20-16 win over Sale in front of a sell-out crowd at Kingsholm.
The victory avenged Gloucester’s 57-10 thrashing at the AJ Bell Stadium in September, but had looked in doubt when the lethargic hosts trailed 9-7 at half-time.
AJ MacGinty scored all Sale’s points with a try, conversion and three penalties, but tries from David Halaifonua and Ben Vellacott and 10 points from the boot of Billy Twelvetrees edged Gloucester over the line.
Aimless kicking from Sale enabled the home team to make a bright opening, with Tom Marshall and Charlie Sharples both testing the Sharks’ defence with some penetrative bursts before Gloucester lost a turnover in the opposition 22.
MacGinty burst away down the right flank for Sale to have their first period of pressure and they were rewarded when he kicked them into the lead with an 11th-minute penalty.
Seven minutes later, MacGinty was again on target to give his side a 6-0 lead at the end of a disjointed first quarter.
Ill-discipline was proving costly for the hosts – they conceded five penalties in the first 20 minutes – but they sprung to life when a clever piece of play from Andy Symons sent Lewis Ludlow haring into the Sharks’ half.
Vellacott was up in support but Ludlow delayed his pass to the speedy scrum-half and the chance of the first try was lost. Sale were then penalised and Twelvetrees had a good chance to put his side on the scoreboard but his 35-metre kick went badly astray.
Sharples enlivened proceedings with a thrilling 55-metre run into the Sale 22 and, when Gloucester declined a simple penalty in favour of an attacking scrum, it proved the correct call as Halaifonua squeezed over in the corner.
Twelvetrees fired over the touchline conversion before Sale suffered a blow when number eight Josh Strauss departed with a shoulder injury, but they still led 9-7 at the interval after MacGinty succeeded with his third penalty.
It was Gloucester who had the momentum after the restart and, after their pack had battered the visitors’ line with a number of line-out drives, Vellacott was on hand to see an opportunity to dart over.
Gloucester were not ahead long as, within three minutes, Sale had their first try. From a line-out on the home 22, Faf De Klerk burst away to feed MacGinty, who brushed aside some weak tackling to force his way over.
That score for Sale was very much against the run of play as the home pack were now firmly in control, penning their opponents deep in their own half, and the hosts deservedly sealed victory when two 50-metre penalties from Twelvetrees sailed over.
LONDON IRISH 15 NEWCASTLE 20
Newcastle climbed into the Aviva Premiership top six on Saturday as London Irish went down to their 11th defeat in 12 league games this season.
However, the Falcons were left disappointed with their second-half performance in the 20-15 victory as they missed out on a try bonus point.
Newcastle moved up to fifth, while relegation-threatened Irish sit 10 points adrift of Worcester at the bottom of the table.
Wings Alex Tait, who scored twice, and Vereniki Goneva grabbed Newcastle’s three tries, with fly-half Toby Flood converting one and landing a penalty.
Full-back Greig Tonks kicked all of the Irish points with five penalties.
SARACENS 46 WORCESTER 31
Jackson Wray and Nathan Earle both scored a pair of tries as Saracens ended a run of three home defeats with a 46-31 Aviva Premiership win over Worcester.
Josh Adams opened the scoring when for crossed for a try for the sixth consecutive game before scores from Ben Spencer and Sean Maitland put the hosts ahead only for Sam Lewis to make it level at the break.
Wray scored twice after the break to secure the try bonus point for Saracens before Earle added his own brace.
David Denton and Jamie Shillcock went over for the visitors to earn a try bonus point at Allianz Park.