Six penalties form Gareth Steenson proved enough for Exeter Chiefs to secure a 18-16 Premiership victory away to Sale Sharks.
Six penalties form Gareth Steenson proved enough for Exeter to secure a 18-16 Premiership victory over Sale Sharks at AJ Bell Stadium on Friday.
Exeter cemented their place in the Premiership's top four with a solid if unspectacular victory.
Steenson's 100 percent kicking record, as well as three first half yellow cards for Sharks, helped Rob Baxter's men to their third win in as many games, despite a late fight back from the hosts, as Steve Diamond's men failed to bounce back from last week's defeat to Harlequins.
After Steenson and Danny Cipriani had traded early penalties, Sale's indiscipline started to give the Chiefs the advantage.
Steenson added a further six points to his tally within the space of three minutes after Vadim Cobilas was sent to the bin for killing the ball.
After Cipriani missed the chance to level the scores at 9-9, two yellow cards in four minutes helped extend Exeter's lead. First, Tommy Taylor was sent to the sidelines after referee Wayne Barnes consulted with the TMO, followed soon after by Kirill Kulemin.
Steenson profited from Sharks' depleted numbers, adding two more penalties as the Chiefs went into the break leading by 15-6.
As Sale came out looking to stage a second half comeback, Diamond's frustration at Exeter's scrum tactics continued to grow, resulting in an angry exchange with one of Wayne Barnes' assistants.
Cipriani's 75th minute penalty looked to have given Sharks renewed hope, only for his side to concede another three points to the deadly boot of Steenson, who made it six from six on the night.
But Mark Cueto's late try in the corner – his fourth touchdown of the season – saw Sale pick up a losing bonus point.
Pens: Cipriani 3
Yellow cards: Cobilas, Taylor, Kulemin
Pens: Steenson 6
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Mark Easter, 7 Dan Braid (c), 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Kirill Kulemin, 3 Vadim Cobilas 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts.
Replacements 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 David Seymour, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Andy Forsyth
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Matt Jess, 13 Jason Shoemark, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Dave Lewis, 8 Dave Ewers, 7 Ben White, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Damian Welch, 4 Dean Mumm (capt), 3 Hoani Tui, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Brett Sturgess.
Replacements: 16 Chris Whitehead, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Don Armand, 20 Kai Horstmann, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Luke Arscott.
Venue: AJ Bell Stadium
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Paul Dix
Television match official: Trevor Fisher
Timekeeper: Anthony Turner
Assessor: Gary Welsh