Sale Sharks 28-22 Saracens, Aviva Premiership, January 2
Resurgent Sale stun Saracens
January 2, 2011
Sale Sharks scrum-half Dwayne Peel feeds his back line at Edgeley Park
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Sale rebounded from their mauling at the hands of Leicester last time out with a 28-22 victory over Saracens at Edgeley Park.
First half tries from winger Mark Cueto, flanker James Gaskell and centre Chris Bell and 13 points from fly-half Charlie Hodgson saw the lowly Sharks become the latest side to upset the Premiership formbook this weekend. The hosts had to withstand a second half comeback from Sarries but a try from winger James Short and 17 points from the boot of No.10 Owen Farrell was not enough to overhaul the resurgent home side.
The result was a welcome tonic for Sharks coach Pete Anglesea in just his second game in charge since the departure of Mike Brewer while Saracens new boy Gavin Henson had a game to forget in his first start for his new side.
A clever kick by Farrell into the Sale 22 caused trouble in the opening minutes and fullback Alex Goode was denied the chance to pounce on the loose ball for a try when his opposite number Paul Williams pulled him back off the ball. The infringement went unnoticed by referee Dave Pearson who pulled play back for an earlier penalty that Farrell slotted to give the visitors the lead.
Sale struck back almost immediately and in impressive fashion. A strong run from Cueto laid the platform for the score and prop Karena Wihongi lent some weight to the attack. A chip through from Williams then had Saracens scrambling back and Cueto won the chase to the ball and brushed aside Henson to notch the opening try of the game. The Sharks were soon pressing again with turnover ball proving the key once again before No.8 Sisa Koyamaibole took the ball close only to be stripped of the ball by Henson. But the loose ball fell kindly for Gaskell who picked it up before dotting down for the score although the blindside had to wait an age for it to be confirmed by the Television Match Official.
Hodgson failed to add the conversion but he was on target with a penalty midway through the half after Saracens had been caught offside. And the Sale No.10 took his side's lead to 15 points a few minutes later after his pack had driven their rivals back into their own 22 where they were penalised for not rolling away. Further pressure had Saracens in trouble at a scrum in the shadow of their own posts and Hodgson had no trouble in adding to his personal tally and cementing his side's lead.
But they refused to ease off and conjured a super try just past the half hour. Openside Carl Fearns carved Saracens open down the short side and he found support from Gaskell before Bell loomed up at pace to take the game into the 22 where he weathered the tackle of Saracens replacement James Ellershaw to touch down for his side's third try that Hodgson also converted.
Back came Sarries with a strong series of phases and they peppered the Sale line following an attacking lineout only for a deliberate knock on from Sale lock Kris Ormsby to rob them of precious momentum and the visitors had to settle for a Farrell penalty. And the Saracens No.10 added another before the break after centre Brad Barritt had been caught by a high tackle.
Sale dominated the early exchanges in the second half but pressure from openside Andy Saull saw Hodgson pull a drop goal attempt wide of the posts. But Sale continued to play with confidence with a wild pass from Cueto bringing a disappointing end to one promising move. Saracens attempted to crank through the gears themselves as the half went on but chances were few and far between with another Farrell penalty only chipping away at Sale's lead.
Saracens took heart from that score and were soon celebrating their first try after some strong running from Joubert created the space for Short to dance his way through for a score that was converted by Farrell to make it a nine point game with a little of ten minutes of the game remaining. Sale responded by driving into striking range on the back of an epic series of 15 phases but replacement Nick Macleod could only pull his drop goal attempt horribly wide.
A sloppy penalty from replacement hooker Ben Roberts just inside his own half then allowed Farrell to bring his side within losing bonus point range to set up a fascinating finale. Farrell cranked up the pressure by finding touch inside the Sale 22 for an attacking lineout with the clock running down but replacement hooker Jamie George failed to find his man and with his errant throw went his side's chances of a late turnaround.
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