MX23RW : Wednesday, March 6 11:26:02
Mar 2, 2019 at 3pm UK at ​Salford City Stadium
Sale Sharks
14-20
Exeter Chiefs
James (62'), Cliff (73')
FT
Devoto (20'), Armand (36'), Lonsdale (70')

Result: Exeter stay top of Premiership after victory at Sale

Result: Exeter stay top of Premiership after victory at Sale
© Reuters
Ollie Devoto and Don Armand crossed for the Chiefs.

Exeter remained top of the Gallagher Premiership table and provided a hammer-blow to Sale Sharks' top-four hopes following a 20-14 triumph at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The Sharks started well, often forcing the Chiefs into reverse in the loose, but mistakes were their undoing and the West Countrymen benefited, touching down twice through Ollie Devoto and Don Armand.

With Gareth Steenson adding a penalty and conversion, Exeter held a 15-0 advantage at the interval, which proved to be enough to claim the win.

Although Sam James and Will Cliff crossed the whitewash for Sale, Sean Lonsdale's try helped the visitors remain at the Premiership summit.

After their meek surrender to Northampton Saints two weeks ago, the Sharks have upped the intensity since and their physicality helped produce a brutal start to the encounter, but Exeter wore them down in the first half.

Both sides were abrasive in the tackle and at the contact area but Sale's accuracy at the breakdown let them down on a couple of occasions, which allowed Steenson to kick the visitors into a 3-0 lead.

They were also making too many errors with ball in hand, despite creating a number of opportunities, and the Chiefs capitalised by pouncing on a loose ball.

It was kicked ahead, with Santiago Cordero latching onto it and although Ben Curry did well to recover, the Argentine's offload found Devoto and the centre superbly chipped the ball up into his hands and finished in the corner.

Buoyed by that score, Exeter duly increased the pressure and put the hosts on the back foot, forcing Steve Diamond's men to infringe consistently on their own line. The Greater Manchester outfit were perhaps fortunate not to see yellow, but it did not matter as Armand charged across the whitewash for a 15-point buffer at the interval.

The second period began in a similar fashion with the Sharks giving away possession after a poor error, but they regained their composure to force the Chiefs to defend their line.

However, Rob Baxter's men were outstanding and frustrated their opponents, winning several turnovers and keeping Sale scoreless going into the final quarter.

Diamond's charges did finally manage to cross the whitewash, though, when James went over from close range, but the Devonians were too good on the day and effectively sealed the win through Lonsdale.

Sale did hit back via a well-worked score as Cliff touched down, but the Chiefs held on for their 12th domestic victory of the season.

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Ben Curry in action for Sale Sharks in March 2017
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