Exeter remained at the head of the Gallagher Premiership table, beating Sale Sharks' best four hopes after a 20-14 win at the AJ Bell stadium.

The sharks started well, often forcing the chiefs into reverse, but mistakes undid them, and the Western compatriots benefited and made their way through Ollie Devoto and Don Armand twice.

With Gareth Steenson adding a penalty and a conversion, Exeter had a 15-0 lead at half-time, which proved sufficient to win.

Although Sam James and Will Cliff had crossed the whitewash for Sale, Sean Lonsdale's attempt helped visitors to stay at the Premiership Summit.

After surrendering gently to the Northampton Saints two weeks ago, the sharks have increased in intensity ever since and their physicality helped create a brutal start to the encounter, but Exeter wore them off in the first half.

Both sides were abrasive in the attack area and in the contact area, but the accuracy of Sale at the collapse dropped them on a few occasions and Steenson took the lead 3-0.

They also made too many mistakes with the ball in hand, though they offered a number of possibilities, and the Chiefs capitalized on a loose ball.

It was pushed forward, Santiago Cordero clung to it, and although Ben Curry recovered well, Devoto found the Argentine throw and the center hit the ball perfectly and ended in the corner.

Accelerated by this score, Exeter duly increased pressure and put the hosts on the back foot, forcing Steve Diamonds men to consistently violate their own line. The Greater Manchester side may not have been lucky enough to miss Yellow, but it did not matter when Armand stormed the whitewash for 15-point buffering.

The second period similarly began when the sharks left the estate after a faint mistake, but they regained their composure and forced the chiefs to defend their line.

The men of Rob Baxter, however, were outstanding and frustrated their opponents by making several sales and relentlessly relegated Sale to the last quarter.

Diamond's charges eventually crossed the Whitewash when James came from close range, but the Devonians were too good that day and sealed the victory by Lonsdale.

The sale fell back on a well-made result as Cliff took over, but the Chiefs held on to their twelfth domestic victory of the season.

,