MATCH REPORT | Sale Sharks 35-24 Saracens Men
Sale Sharks came from behind to eventually beat Saracens Men 35-24 in a bruising Gallagher Premiership encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Men in Black had put themselves in a commanding position and held a 16-0 lead half way through the first half, but they were undone after the break and Sale registered a bonus point win.
Sarries started strongly and had plenty of early possession in the opening stages. A high kick was gathered well by Sean Maitland who threatened to break away, but after a number of phases the visitors earned a penalty and Alex Goode kicked them in to a 3-0 lead from 30 metres out.
There was then a big let off for the Londoners as Andy Christie’s unfortunate fumble opened the door for Jean-Luc du Preez, but his grubber ahead bounced in to touch to the relief of the visitors.
Goode then doubled the lead with his second penalty on the 15 minute mark. A brilliant exchange from Billy Vunipola and Alex Lewington took them from their own line in to the Sale half, and then a kick deep in to the 22 earned them further field position which resulted in Goode slotting the ball between the sticks.
It got even better for Sarries five minutes later as they crossed for their first try of the afternoon. Another superb attack gave them front foot ball, and Goode’s ball over the top released Maitland who drew in the final defender and passed right to Lewington who could cruise over the line in the corner. The conversion went wide, but the impressive visitors had an 11-0 advantage half way through the first half.
Alex Lozowski then summed up the immense effort in the first half when he chased down his own grubber and charged the Sale response down to stop their attack, which brought the entire bench to their feet.
Sarries struck again before the half hour, as Theo Dan bundled over from a maul as the visitors threatened to run away with proceedings. A penalty was kicked in to the 22, and then the maul thundered 15 metres towards the line and allowed the hooker to break away and dot down.
Sale then had some rare ball and Jono Ross’ strong carry took them to within striking distance, but the defence held firm and forced the error as we closed in on half time.
Goode was then sent to the sin-bin for blocking Tom O’Flaherty, and Sale took advantage straight away as Joe Carpenter scored with the next play.
The ball zipped away from a maul and they had huge overlap, allowing Joe Carpenter an easy run in from 10 metres out. Rob du Preez’s conversion cut the lead to nine points.
Sarries weren’t flustered though, and Dan’s excellent turnover earned a penalty straight away which Manu Vunipola put straight through the posts to make it 19-7.
Sam James then scored with the final play of the half to bring the hosts right back in to the game. O’Flaherty found some space and drew in the final man before a pass which had more than a hint of forward about it to allow James to stroll over. The conversion made it a five point game after an eventful opening 40 minutes.
O’Flaherty almost got Sale off to the perfect start in the second half as he pounced on a loose ball and charged towards the corner from 50 metres, but an excellent tackle from Lozowski dragged him in to touch and Sarries survived.
Sale were on the front foot and came charging forward again, this time through James but the defence held him up and earned a goal-line drop out.
They got themselves level with 55 minutes on the clock as Carpenter dived over for his second of the game. A penalty was kicked to the corner and the ball was shifted from right to left, giving the full-back plenty of space to beat the final man and score. The conversion then edged the hosts 21-19 in front.
Their bonus point try then followed and it came courtesy of their skipper Ross. They again went through the phases and were threatening the try-line, before du Preez’s excellent cross-field kick found Ross in acres of space and he had the easy job of placing down in the corner. The extras from the touchline gave them a nine point lead as we entered the final quarter.
Sarries got themselves right back in the game though as Kapeli Pifeleti scored to give them hope. A penalty was kicked to within striking distance, and the maul was never going to be stopped to allow the hooker to cross. The conversion went just wide, but now Sarries were within four as they hunted down the all-important win.
Robin Hislop was then red-carded for a high tackle but the chances kept coming for the visitors who refused to lie down. A string of penalties gave them the ball right on the line, but they couldn’t quite get over and Sale had the final say with just one minute to go.
They sealed the win as Jean-Luc du Preez clattered over with the final play to put further gloss on their victory. The extras were added to give the hosts an impressive victory.
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