MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 35-25 Sale Sharks
Saracens Men were crowned champions of England for the sixth time, after an enthralling 35-25 win over Sale Sharks at Twickenham.
The is a breathless, enthralling 80 minutes of rugby, with the victory built on a combination of attacking brilliance and ceaseless defence.
The Men in Black showcased their champion mentality in the final quarter of the contest after a seesaw opening hour, winning the crucial moments to claim the 2022/23 Premiership crown, thanks in part, to Owen Farrell’s excellent performance.
Saracens flew out of the blocks and found themselves deep inside Sharks territory and within three minutes, Sale received their first dose of Farrell’s attacking prowess. His beautiful inside ball created the initial break for Nick Tompkins to link up with Ben Earl, who was dragged down agonisingly close to the line. But, as the relentless attack continued, Sale were forced to infringe to hold on, allowing Farrell to give Sarries an early 3-0 with a penalty from in front.
However, the Sharks’ response was immediate. After regathering the kickoff, a Sarries infringement at the ruck handed George Ford a shot at the posts to level the scores at three apiece after seven minutes.
As both sides continued to produce merciless efforts in defence, it was Farrell who once again provided a moment of magic to spark the next chance, stripping Manu Tuilagi of possession which allowed Max Malins to deliver an expertly weighted 50/22. From the ensuing lineout, Sale infringed once again and saw Farrell land a penalty to regain the lead for his side.
But the trading of penalties continued as Ford split the sticks with his penalty to level the scores once again just before the 20-minute mark after Sarries were deemed to collapse the scrum.
Despite a brief pause at the hands of protestors, Saracens remained unphased. They produced the first score of the game not long after, as Alex Goode’s delicate grubber through forced Tom Curry to tackle Malins off the ball, handing Sarries a penalty try, as Curry was sent to the bin.
But the back-and-forth scoring theme repeated, as Sale responded with their first try. After launching a penalty into the corner, the Sharks chipped away at Sarries’ line before Akker Van Der Merwe eventually burrowed over from short range, to level the scores at 13-13 just before the half-hour mark.
Then, more Farrell magic. After thumping a penalty five metres out from Sale’s tryline, the fly-half’s delightful double pump pop pass set Malins away to produce the final score of a chaotic first half and send Sarries into the sheds with a 20-13 lead.
Five minutes into the second half, Sale clawed their way even once again as Van Der Merwe’s impromptu linebreak proceeded a wayward chip and chase attempt that somehow managed to find Tom Roebuck, whose acrobatic finish in the corner drew Sale back within two points.
Sarries then came inches away from producing an all-time Premiership final score as Elliot Daly painstakingly grazed the touchline, just before dotting down, after some ridiculous offload work from Theo Dan and Farrell in the build-up.
But the pressure mounted for Sale and after fumbling the lineout, the Sharks couldn’t respond to Sarries’ scrum pressure, as Farrell slotted his third penalty of the game to stretch the lead to five.
Once again, Sale refused to lie down and scored their second try. After Tuilagi’s barnstorming run started the attack, the ball moved wide and found Curry in space down the touchline, before Bevan Rodd bundled over. Ford then added the extras to hand Sale their first lead of the afternoon.
The Sharks’ momentum saw them threaten to score again but a crucial lineout steal from Maro Itoje and Earl’s phenomenal turnover moments later, allowed Saracens to clear their lines and reset, heading into the all-important final quarter.
From there, the big game experience began to shine through for Sarries.
After relentless efforts to break Sale’s defensive line, the first chance of the period came unexpectedly through Duncan Taylor’s charge down. As Sale scrambled to regain the loose ball, Sarries piled into the ruck to win possession before recycling down the short side and allowing Daly to dive over in the corner, to regain a slender advantage.
The momentum snowballed, as Sale began to melt away and Sarries crossed again to take the game out of sight. If they were denied an all-time great final try minutes earlier, they more than made up for it here!
Malins’ delightful linebreak from the back of a lineout created the original hole, before he linked up with an unmarked Daly out wide. His offload then found Ivan Van Zyl who carried two defenders over the line to leave Sarries on the precipice of claiming the title.
Despite Robin Hislop’s yellow card for high contact, Saracens rode their wave of momentum, forcing errors out of Sale with some unrelenting defensive efforts in the final stages and as Farrell launched the ball off the field to end proceedings, it sent the Saracens faithful into complete pandemonium as they claimed the coveted Premiership crown.
Report by Cameron Stephens.