London Irish 31-31 Sale: Day after Bees snatch draw with Liverpool, never-say-die Exiles claw back 31-14 deficit to snatch share of spoils
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Manu Tuilagi was left stunned as London Irish came back from the dead to break the hearts of sloppy Sale.
On the same pitch that Thomas Frank’s Brentford shocked Liverpool by forcing a last-gasp draw on Saturday night, Irish delivered their own never-say-die epic against more fancied opposition.
Trailing 31-14 with half an hour to play the Exiles scored three tries and would have won had not Paddy Jackson’s 58-metre final shot for glory not cannoned back off an upright.
Irish coach Les Kiss said: “We didn’t lose belief in what we’re about and, to be honest, took massive inspiration from Brentford.
“What we saw from them against Liverpool was a team that just fights for everything. We weren’t quite there the whole game and we were the masters of our own grief at times, but we too fought for everything.”
Sale boss Alex Sanderson had warned his team of the need to start and finish strongly against an Irish side which doesn’t know when it’s beaten.
Action Images via Reuters)
He pointed to the way new world heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk had shocked Anthony Joshua and demanded they take note.
“Joshua went in as odds-on, the more powerful boxer,” he said. “But the Ukrainian hit him hard early on, rocked him and he went gun-shy.
“Irish have also got an ability to fire a shot or two,” he said. “We can’t let it rock us. We have to see our plan through.”
For a while it seemed Sharks had taken note. Tuilagi made the opening try for AJ MacGinty and further scores from Marland Yarde, Sam James and Will Cliff had the bonus point secured before half-time.
“We should have put the ball in Manu’s hands more in that second-half as his timing was back to the glory days,” Sanderson later conceded.
“We have to be smarter. We were banging our heads into brick walls in the end.”
Former Lions star Sean O’Brien came off the bench to spark a comeback which saw fullback Tom Parton bag two smart tries.
Curtis Rona scored their fourth three minutes from time to enable Jackson to level the scores with a touchline conversion.
But the former Ireland fly-half could not repeat the magic from his own half with the final act of the game.
IRISH – Tries: White, Creevy, Parton 2, Rona. Cons: Jackson 3.
SALE – Tries: MacGinty, Yarde, James, Cliff. Cons: MacGinty 4. Pen: MacGinty.