Newcastle Falcons’ Boxing Day showdown at Sale Sharks ended in defeat despite a valiant fight-back from Alan Tait’s men.
Tries from Tom Brady and Mark Cueto coupled with a series of Nick Macleod penalties secured victory for the Greater Manchester outfit.
The Sharks were 19-3 ahead, however the Falcons recovered well to reduce the arrears to 19-16 before the host’s rubber stamped the spoils with a break-away Cueto touchdown.
Tait’s unit now have a crucial home double header with games against Northampton Saints on New Year’s Eve and Exeter Chiefs a week later.
Newcastle made a decent start to proceedings with the forward line combining effectively to gain valuable metres up the field. Setting the platform for the backs, fly-half Jimmy Gopperth went close to scything through a scrambling Sharks defence.
But on eight minutes Brady gave the home side the lead with a converted try following a neat pass from scrum-half Dwayne Peel.
Peel’s flat pass found Brady who broke the Falcons rearguard to sprint half the length of the field to cross the whitewash in the corner.
Macleod kept his nerve to add the extras to give Sale the early initiative.
The Falcons fell further behind when Macleod converted three consecutive penalties to surge into a 16-0 lead.
With Sale threatening to add more points on the board, the Falcons recovered well to haul themselves back into the match.
Gopperth hit back with a penalty and then the Falcons went close to a try through James Fitzpatrick only for the centre to knock-on with the try line beckoning.
Both sides traded penalties to make the score 19-3 before Manning got the Falcons back in business with a superb try.
The Kiwi, who came on for the injured Corne Uys after just four minutes battled his way through three would-be tacklers to slide over the line.
Manning occupied the wing while on the opposite side the impressive Suka Hufanga looked dangerous.
The reliable boot of Gopperth reduced Sale’s advantage to 19-10. And on the stroke of half-time the Falcons playmaker attempted an audacious penalty goal from just inside his own half but the ball fell just short.
Newcastle came out for the second period fired-up after recovering from their early set-back of being 16-0 behind. On 43 minutes Gopperth was presented with the chance to narrow the gap with a penalty from half-way and the New Zealander duly obliged.
On the hour mark Gopperth repeated the feat to go within just three points of Sale but a sucker-punch try from Cueto put Sale in a commanding position.
Sale stole the ball from the scrum and a neat chip over the top was gathered by the England international who had a clear run to the line.
Gopperth put the Falcons within bonus point territory with a well taken penalty before Macleod added a penalty goal to deny the visitors a precious point.
Sale: Miller; Brady, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; MacLeod, Peel; Dickinson, Jones, Thomas, McKenzie, Ostrikov, Gaskell, Seymour, Powell.
Replacements: Willis for Peel (66), Titterrell for Jones (78), Buckley for Thomas (63), Easter for McKenzie (78), Myall for Ostrikov (63).
Not Used: Cobilas, Higgins, Addison.
Newcastle: Goosen; Eves, Uys, Fitzpatrick, Hufanga; Gopperth, Pasqualin; Shiells, Vickers, Murray, Hudson, Swinson, Tu'ifua, Welch, Hogg.
Replacements: Manning for Uys (4), van der Heijden for Pasqualin (70), Wells for Shiells (66), Graham for Vickers (57), Pilgrim for Hudson (70), Fondse for Swinson (57), R. Mayhew for Tu'ifua (45).
Not Used: Frazier.
Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU).