MATCH REPORT | Sale Sharks 22-20 Saracens Men
Saracens Men suffered a narrow defeat as a late comeback proved to not be quite enough as they lost 22-20 to table-topping Sale Sharks at the Salford Stadium.
The Men in Black were up against it for large periods against a highly physical Sharks side, and a late score from Gareth Simpson gave them hope but the hosts eventuality ground out the victory.
In tough blustery conditions both sides were working each other out in a cagey opening to the match.
A grubber through from Gus Warr which almost popped up for Arron Reed before trickling out in to touch was as close as the Sharks came in the opening 10 minutes, whilst Alex Goode’s similar kick almost set Sean Maitland free before the Sale defence scrambled back.
Sarries then broke the deadlock with 12 minutes played, as Maro Itoje stole the ball and then earned a penalty which Owen Farrell couldn’t miss from in front of the posts to make it 3-0 to the visitors.
The game then threatened to open up when Ivan van Zyl sent Nick Tompkins down the wing, but his long grubber ahead bounced up kindly for the Sale defence who could clear the danger.
Sale did strike with their next attack though to respond in the perfect manner. After building pressure in the 22, they got a penalty and kicked to the corner to give them the platform for a rolling maul. Agustin Creevy was the beneficiary as he found himself at the base of the maul to open their account for the evening. George Ford’s conversion gave them a 7-3 advantage as we came to the end of the opening quarter.
Sarries then dug in with an incredible set of defence which showed every ounce of character in the squad. Ford dummied through two and looked to have gone all the way before being hauled down, but play came back for an earlier penalty.
Sale then opted for the scrum and despite three resets, the front-row dug in and Sarries eventually got the penalty which was met with huge cheers from the travelling fans.
They almost took immediate advantage as another penalty was taken quickly and Goode released Cinti down the right who was in acres of space, but the ball popped out of his grasp and Sale turned the ball over.
Olly Hartley then crashed through a gap in the Sale 22 and Sarries looked to edge ahead before the break, but his offload agonisingly went to ground and the hosts got the scrum.
Just as Sale looked to be going down the tunnel in front, an incredible late score from Van Zyl stunned the Salford Stadium as Sarries took the lead. Ford looked for a pass out the back, and the scrum-half read it like a book to intercept and race clear from 50 metres. Farrell then added the extras and the visitors went in at the break with a 10-7 lead.
Sale almost made the perfect start to the second half as Rob du Preez charged down a Farrell kick and looked to run clear, but the fly-half wouldn’t give up and managed to get back just in time.
They didn’t have to wait much longer though, as an overlap from a scrum gave Tom Roebuck space on the left wing and he cut inside to complete a powerful finish and dot down in the corner. The conversion got caught up in the wind and fell short, but now the Sharks held a two point lead.
Alec Clarey was then sent to the sin-bin for a high tackle, and Sale took advantage straight away as the penalty was kicked to the corner and Luke Cowan-Dickie thundered over from the back of a maul for their second try in four minutes. Ford’s conversion went in off the post to give them a nine point advantage.
Just as it looked as if it was going against Sarries, they rallied and brought themselves back in to proceedings on the hour mark.
Juan Martin Gonzalez and Theo Dan combined to take play right up to the line, and then the hosts were penalised to allow Farrell to kick straight through the posts and cut the deficit to six points with 20 minutes to go.
Ford edged Sale further ahead with a penalty from 30 metres to give them some breathing space after 65 minutes, but Sarries came storming back to get within touching distance.
Maro Itoje’s break took play deep in the 22, and then he had Gareth Simpson on his shoulder who had a clear run over in the corner to send the bench wild. Farrell’s incredible touchline conversion then made it a two point game with 10 to play.
It then became mayhem with both sides looking to land the killer blow. Sale kicked a penalty to the corner but Theo McFarland stole it, however a penalty for the hosts earned them a penalty and another shot at goal.
Ford looked to land it and seal the win, but it came back off the post and Sarries had one more chance to snatch the win.
That chance didn’t materialise and Sale eventually kicked the ball out to inflict a narrow defeat on the Men in Black.