- GLOUCESTER 16 - 22 SALE SHARKS
Sale Sharks capitalised on a lacklustre Gloucester to begin their Aviva Premiership season with a bang.
Two tries for Sale from wing Mark Cueto and centre Andy Forsyth plus penalties from fly-half Nick MacLeod and full-back Tom Arscott helped seal the Sharks' victory.
Replacement Joe Ford added a drop goal towards the end and the gap, opened up during the first period, proved too much for Gloucester to close despite three penalties from outside-half Freddie Burns and a second-half try from centre Henry Trinder.
Gloucester went into the match as favourites but a hapless first period took the Cherry and Whites into the break 14-3 .
Sale looked the more inventive, causing problems down the wings and their kicking game, via scrum-half Dwayne Peel and MacLeod, had the home side on the back foot.
It was a sharp contrast to the last time the clubs met at Kingsholm in the Premiership last November, when a struggling Sharks outfit went down 29-3.
Within 13 minutes, Sale had put the bite on Gloucester as MacLeod landed a short-range penalty before the first of their tries, a movement which saw former England wing Cueto glide past the home defence on the right.
Referee Andrew Small called on the TV official to have a look at the lead-up in which Peel linked with MacLeod from halfway, with replays showing that the stand-off's pass to Cueto may have gone marginally forward.
The Sale back-row, lead by skipper Dan Braid, were particularly lively in the loose as the fumbling home side suffered first-day nerves.
Burns landed Gloucester's first points of the season with a 25-metre penalty but they were caught in a panic soon afterwards when a kick downfield saw ex-London Welsh wing Phil McKenzie, on his Sharks debut, force opposite number James Simpson-Daniel to take the ball over his own line and concede a scrum five.
Two penalties from halfway by Arscott increased the Sale lead and Gloucester added to their own frustrations when prop Nick Wood was sent to the sin-bin shortly before half-time for diving illegally into a ruck.
Gloucester were still at sixes and sevens in the second period as well and just could not get their plans together.
One chance they created turned to nothing before they were struck by the second controversial TMO decision.
This time, MacLeod laid-off a pass to Cueto which saw the winger nutmeg the ball through the legs of Simpson-Daniel for Forsyth to chase and dive over for the score.
But there were howls of derision from the Kingsholm faithful as they thought Forsyth was offside.
Again, Gloucester went down to 14 men when England centre Billy Twelvetrees was lucky to only receive a yellow card when twisting Cueto over in a tip-tackle.
But finally, on the hour, the Cherry and Whites converted an attack into points when Trinder found a gap in the half-back position and sprinted through from 25 metres under the posts to make Burns' conversion easy.
And when Burns booted a 27-metre penalty, the momentum had switched and Gloucester had found their feet. The fly-half added another seconds later from 35 metres which pulled his side back to within three points.
Yet Sale would not be denied and a drop goal from Joe Ford from 20 metres restored Sale's six-point lead and was enough to see them home and leave Gloucester with only a losing bonus point for their troubles.
- NEWCASTLE FALCONS 0 - 21 BATH
Newcastle's return to the Aviva Premiership was dealt an early blow as they failed to score a point on a dismal night under the lights at Kingston Park.
George Ford kicked three penalties and a conversion for Bath, with Anthony Perenise crossing the line from a rolling maul and a late penalty try sealing the win, as the home side failed to master the wind and rain in the season's opener.
The match marked the return of Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards to the English top flight for the first time in four years, after he navigated Newcastle's promotion at the first time of asking following a three-year worldwide ban in the wake of the Bloodgate scandal at Harlequins.
Friday's game was under some scrutiny following the introduction of new scrum laws in the English top flight, which are being trialed in the northern hemisphere this season.
It was a difficult first test on a windy and soggy night in the north east, and there were some early teething problems as the first two scrums of the night took more than a minute apiece to set, with the almost immediate collapse of one and the other resulting in a quick penalty to Bath.
Bath started the brightest and despite the slippery conditions showed their intentions of wanting to run the ball. That earned them their first chance of points, with Bath's new fly-half Ford taking aim at the posts and rifling his strike straight through the middle for an early lead.
There was then a lengthy injury delay following some broken play as Falcons centre Jamie Helleur left the field on a stretcher after what looked to be a nasty head injury, to be replaced by Adam Powell.
The relentless rain saw the first half degenerate into a scrappy, aerial battle, with traction on the ground and the ball at a premium, and sideways movement the only direction readily available to either sides' attacking efforts.
Newcastle's new scrum-half Mike Blair then had some problems of at the set piece, as a moving scrum prevented him from feeding the ball, with Bath duly awarded the ball.
Some more scrappy play followed, before Bath full-back Anthony Watson made a good break and Falcons' debutant prop Kieran Brookes replied shortly after with a solid run in midfield, feeding the ball to wing Noah Cato, who was hauled down inside the Bath 22 in Newcastle's most threatening move.
The Falcons finally found their feet at the scrum, with a penalty awarded after it turned, but fly-half Phil Godman was unable to covert the points in the swirling conditions.
Ford had no problems at the other end, though, with a 40-metre kick just making it over the crossbar after lock Carlo del Fava was penalised for being offside.
Gavin Henson was then met with boos usually reserved for pantomine villains after he replaced the injured Kyle Eastmond from the bench in the final minute of the first half as the clock ticked down on a dismal opening 40 minutes.
The former Wales international's first touch came early in the second half, but was a rather embarassing netball-style chest pass which went straight into touch.
Newcastle looked much brighter, with a break upfield from the scrum only stopped after a pass to Danny Barnes went to ground, with new man Andy Saull opening up Bath's defence after a quick tap from Blair.
Ford edged the visitors further ahead from close to the touchline after Newcastle were penalised following a drive forward from Bath.
Bath then dealt Newcastle a hammer blow as they crossed the line, with substitute prop Perenise awarded the try following a rolling maul.
Bath then wrapped up the win with a late penalty try with Ford adding the extras as Newcastle started their campaign in the worst possible way.