Saracens 28-13 Sale, Aviva Premiership, September 12
Saracens too good for Sale
September 12, 2010
Saracens' Noah Cato stretches the Sale defence
© Getty Images
Saracens opened their Aviva Premiership account with a 28-13 victory over Sale at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
A try from debutant winger David Strettle in an impressive second-half cameo sealed Saracens' first win of the season following earlier scores from hooker Schalk Brits and prop Deon Carstens. Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth weighed in with 15 points with the boot to help see off his former side, who had gone into the break on level terms thanks to a try from David Seymour and the kicking exploits of fly-half Nick Macleod. But they were unable to sustain that effort with Saracens' dominance - bolstered by the return of lock Steve Borthwick - ensuring they bounced back from last weekend's defeat to London Irish.
An early penalty against Brits for going off his feet at the breakdown gave Mcleod the chance to open the scores but he pulled his effort wide of the posts. The visitors, looking to follow up their opening win against Newcastle, continued to dictate proceedings and pinned the hosts deep in their own half, but an injection of pace from Noah Cato released the pressure and took the game downfield. However, they struggled to find the cutting edge to breach the final line of defence.
Fullback Chris Wyles was the next to stretch the Sale defence and although the hosts failed to capitalise on the position, a yellow card for Sharks flanker Carl Fearns for pulling Wigglesworth back off the ball handed them a numerical advantage. The extra man paid immediate dividends at scrum-time with the penalty going against Sale, and Saracens backed themselves by opting for another. The Sharks' defence continued to frustrate Saracens but did so illegally, with Saracens taking the lineout option this time. Brits and Cato then went close only for the ball to be spilled and the chance disappear.
The Sale penalty count continued to climb with a catch and drive at the lineout Saracens' next point of attack, with Brits awarded the try after a powerful surge over the try line. Wigglesworth added the extras to cement their lead - but Sale's response was swift. Saracens failed to deal with the re-start and the Sharks' Tom Brady pounced before shrugging off the tackle of Wigglesworth and feeding Seymour on his shoulder for the try. Macleod slotted his first kick of the game to level the scores.
Saracens pushed for a reply with some great hands from lock Mouritz Botha creating one opening before a clearance from Brady was charged down inside his own 22. However, the boot of Macleod eventually cleared the danger and laid the foundation for Sale's next score - a simple penalty which was the result of pressure at lineout time. But Sale's own indiscipline cost them moments later when fullback Mark Cueto was penalised for not releasing at the breakdown, and Wigglesworth levelled the scores once more.
Saracens looked hungry for more with the ball just beating Cato into touch after a neat chip and chase before an off-side penalty against Sale scrum-half Dwayne Peel offered Saracens the chance to re-take the lead. But Wigglesworth was wide of the target with his latest attempt as Sharks captain James Gaskell was forced from the field with an ankle injury. Macleod had no such problem with his next effort - landing a monster 53m effort from just inside his own half.
Saracens' David Strettle exploits a gap in the Sale defence during their clash at Vicarage Road © Getty Images
But when Saracens' Carlos Nieto got the better of Sale's Andrew Sheridan at a scrum just before the break, Wigglesworth was able to slot his second penalty to ensure the sides headed to the tunnel all-square.
A change in personnel at half-time resulted in the introduction of Strettle and Borthwick with both having an immediate impact on the game. Strettle's pace was soon causing Sale major problems while Borthwick would go on to bring greater control and composure to the Sarries set-piece. And it was not long before the home side had the lead with a penalty against Sale prop Karena Wilhongi for going off his feet enabling Wigglesworth to edge his side ahead after just two minutes. But they were not finished there with their second try underlining their growing dominance.
A great pass from Brits put Strettle away and he fended off Sale's Ben Cohen before powering downfield. A neat inter-change with flanker Kelly Brown and Wigglesworth took him close to scoring but he was eventually hauled down. However, the ball was recycled and Carstens burrowed his way over to score a try which was converted by his scrum-half.
A serious-looking injury to Brits - whose head hit the ground at pace as the result of a heavy tackle on the hour mark - then demanded attention and thankfully the South African was deemed fit enough to walk from the field. Sale struggled to reassert themselves and an error from Cohen under a high ball led to the latest penalty opportunity. Fly-half Alex Goode's kick had the required length but not the direction.
A loose ball in midfield was then hacked on by Strettle, who won the foot race to the ball before backing himself for pace against the Sale back three. However, the winger was stopped just short of the line by a superb tackle from fullback Paul Williams and the visitors eventually cleared their lines.
Sale rallied well as the game entered the final five minutes but Saracens were in no mood to relinquish their lead and instead it was the hosts who grabbed the next score, with Strettle notching a well-deserved try. Quick ball was the key, with replacement scrum-half Neil de Kock feeding Goode who in turn found Strettle and the winger had the pace and the room to go over in the corner.
Replacement No.10 Derick Hougaard wasted no time in adding the extras in the hope of his side conjuring a bonus point try but it was Sale who ended the game on the front foot, although they were unable to snatch a consolation try.