London Irish suffered defeat in their final Premiership Rugby Cup game after an entertaining spectacle at the Madejski Stadium against Sale Sharks.
With the scores level at 22-22 heading into the final 10 minutes of the match, Akker van der Merwe scored the decisive try after Barney Maddison was given a yellow card moments earlier.
London Irish enjoyed a fine spell of early possession as they looked to score the first points of the game. Tom Fowlie broke down the wing with an impressive turn of pace and after being awarded a penalty, Paddy Jackson found touch in the right corner.
The Exiles were forced into an early change after Northcote-Green was taken off with a head injury and replaced by George Nott.
Jackson again found touch after another penalty and Irish won the line out as they pushed to find a try. A monumental effort from the hosts allowed them to score the first try of the game as they drove over the line from a maul with Matt Rogerson carrying the ball over. Jackson kicked the extras to make it 7-0.
Sale then found some possession of their own and pushed forward to find territory inside the Irish half. With 20 minutes played, Sale got themselves onto the scoreboard as they worked the ball out to the left-wing as a long pass found Simon Hammersley who crossed the line deep into the left corner.
Du Perez failed to add the extra points with a tricky kick on the left touchline.
Irish had to hold firm to withstand pressure from Sale as a huge tackle from Tom Fowlie brought the irish fans to their feet as they won back possession to relieve the attack from the visitors.
With just over half an hour played, Sale found their second try of the match. Du Perez burst through the middle of the Irish defence before offloading the ball to Christ Ashton who touched own under the posts. Du Preez converted to make it 12-7 to Sale.
Harry Elrington replaced Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi for the Exiles. Irish were awarded a penalty just before the break as Sharks player Rob Webber was shown a yellow card. Jackson scored the penalty to reduce the deficit to make it 10-12.
But the Sharks then scored the final points of the half as Du Perez converted from underneath the posts to give Sale a 15-10 lead going into half-time.
Irish made one change going into the second half as Ruan Botha was brought on in place of Isaac Curtis-Harris.
Irish took the initiative early in the second period as a spell of pressure forced Sale over their own try line to give the Exiles a scrum. Irish pushed well and were eventually rewarded as Oliver Hoskins got over the whitewash. Jackson then maintained his 100% success rate to put Irish into a 17-15 lead.
The Exiles then extended their lead 10 minutes later with a brilliant passing move as they worked the ball wide before an inside pas to Ben Loader allowed him to get through the defence and over the try line. Jackson missed his first kick of the day to make the score 22-15 to Irish.
Ashton then showed blistering pace as he chased his own kick and managed to touch the ball down before it went out of play to score his second try of the match. The conversion is missed as the scores are levelled at 22-22.
With the game hanging in the balance, Irish were dealt a blow with 10 minutes remaining as Barney Maddison was shown a yellow card. Sale took advantage of their extra man and scored their fourth try of the game with Akker van der Merwe scoring the points. The conversion was missed to make the score 27-22 to the away side with seven minutes left.
Irish were unable to find a late score as Sale took the win. The Exiles begin their Gallagher Premiership campaign next weekend away at Wasps before they host Sale Sharks again the following weekend.
London Irish: 15 Parton, 14 Fowlie, 13 Rona, 12 Brophy Clews, 11 Loader, 10 Jackson, 9 Steele, 1 Hobbs-Awoyemi, 2 Fainga’a, 3 Hoskins, 4 Maddison, 5 van der Merwe (c), 6 Rogerson, 7 Cowan, 8 Curtis-Harris
Replacements: 16 Atkins, 17 Elrington, 18 Chawatama, 19 Botha, 20 Nott, 21 Englefield, 22 Myler, 23 Williams
Sale Sharks: 15 Hammersley, 14 Ashton, 13 James, 12 Redpath, 11 Ashton, 10 Du Preez, 9, Papier, 1 Harrison, 2 van der Merwe, 3 John, 4 Evans, 5 Postlethwaite (c), 6 Ross, 7 Curry, 8 Beaumont.
Replacements: 16 Webber, 17 Rodd, 18 Oosethuizen, 19 Phillips, 20 Moore, 21 Cliff, 22 James, 23 McGuigan.
London Irish tries: Rogerson 9′, Hoskins 45′, Loader 55′
Sale Sharks tries: Hammersley 20′, Ashton 32′ 61′, van der Merwe 71′