Sale FC Rugby came away with two bonus points in a thriller at The Rock.
The hosts almost took the lead immediately as they collected debutant Emiliano Calle Rivas’ kick off and kicked long but Paolo Odogwu did well to win a foot race with the pacy winger to earn a 22m drop out.
The relief was short-lived though as Park moved the ball quickly in their next attack allowing winger, Fadahunsi, to score in the corner and Lound added the extras. 0-7
The blue and whites bounced back almost straightaway though as, after several phases, Johnny Leota put a cute kick through the defensive line for Odogwu to pick up and score under the posts leaving an easy conversion for Calle Rivas. 7-7
Odogwu was denied another potential try when he intercepted a pass near his own try line but, as he turned on the afterburners, the ref pulled play back for an earlier penalty.
The home side then began to dominate proceedings and scored two identical tries as, turning down the opportunity of 3 points, they kicked to the corner, won the lineouts and forwards Munro and Ellis powered over from close range. 7-21
Sale’s task was made even harder in the 25th minute when scrum-half, Matt Bradley, was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball on as the red and whites broke again (although footage after the game showed that the ball was actually knocked backwards by an attacking player).
From the penalty, Park again opted for touch and scored their bonus point try in similar fashion to their previous two with Ellis again touching down.
Sale came out for the 2nd half with a new sense of purpose and were quickly on the front foot, forcing errors from the hosts that had not been seen in the first 40 minutes.
With Emi dictating play, the boys patiently built an attacking position before Jack Moorhouse spotted a gap in the defensive line to score under the posts which Emi converted. 14-28
The blue and whites were now in the ascendency with another debutant, Ed O’Keeffe, looking lively at full-back but, try as they might, they were unable to make any further impact on the scoreboard.
With ten minutes to go, replacement Kieran Wilkinson offloaded superbly for Matt Postlethwaite to stride away in midfield but the linesman indicated a forward pass and from the scrum, Park were awarded a penalty which Grove converted. 14-31Time was now firmly against Sale but they gave themselves a lifeline with a couple of minutes remaining as the forwards won a lineout and mauled towards the line with Leota hopping over from the base of a ruck to score, Wilkinson hitting the post with an attempted drop-kick conversion. 19-31
This, ultimately, was to prove crucial as it allowed time for one further play and as the boys kept the ball alive deep in their own half, Odogwu produced a moment of individual brilliance, slithering through the massed ranks before searing away from the covering defence to score in the corner.
Wilkinson added a fine conversion before the ref blew the whistle to end proceedings with Sale’s late, late show earning what could be 2 crucial bonus points.