Sale Sharks 16-23 Saracens, Aviva Premiership
Hodgson guides Saracens to win over Sale
September 8, 2012
Hodgson steers Sarries past Sale%]
Charlie Hodgson pulled the strings as Saracens ensured that Danny Cipriani's first start for Sale in English rugby ended with a 23-16 defeat on the club's debut at the Salford City Stadium.
Hodgson, who joined Saracens just over a year ago, last season kicked his new side to victory with 20 points at Edgeley Park - the Sharks' home for the previous eight campaigns. Today the veteran fly-half, who retired from international rugby over the summer, landed 18 points.
Hodgson and opposite number Danny Cipriani, making his home debut following his move from Melbourne Rebels, kicked all the first-half points from penalties as the visitors led 12-9 at the break. Wing Will Addison's breakaway try at the start of the second period briefly put the Sharks ahead, but summer signing Chris Ashton's third try in two games for Sarries and Hodgson's boot earned victory.
Sale made four changes to the side defeated 43-6 by Exeter last Saturday. Cipriani, Mark Cueto, Kearnan Myall and Richie Vernon made their first starts of the season. Saracens were unchanged from the 40-3 thrashing of London Irish on the same day.
Sale had to wait an extra 15 minutes to begin Premiership life at their new ground as a traffic accident nearby put kick-off back to 4.45pm.
Cipriani's first competitive points for Sale came via an early penalty from the left and he would have added a try soon after had he not knocked on an attempted intercept. Saracens responded with a period of pressure and Hodgson levelled with a straightforward penalty.
The visitors again threatened down the left, and would have crossed but for a stray pass from Ashton. However, the Sharks had infringed and Hodgson slotted another penalty.
A Saracens speciality high kick and chase earned another penalty, which Hodgson turned into three more points from a central position.
Soon after, Hodgson charged down a Cipriani clearance, gathered and bore down on the line, only to be tackled by his opposite number just short. Although Brad Barritt lost control as he reached to score, Sarries earnt another penalty and Hodgson kept up his perfect record.
Cipriani pulled three back after Barritt was penalised via the television match official for taking opposite number Sam Tuitupou out off the ball when Cipriani chipped behind the defence and into the 22.
The home fly-half made it 12-9 on the stroke of half-time with a scuffed penalty from the right after Sarries had a taste of their own medicine from an up and under.
Saracens attacked early in the second period but a stray pass fell to Addison, who out-paced Hodgson down the right and scored under the posts. Cipriani converted to put Sale ahead by four points.
With a 7,451 crowd increasingly vocal, visiting fullback Alex Goode countered down the left and Sarries earned a penalty. However, Hodgson was off target for the first time. He soon made amends from a central position after Ashton was taken out off the ball.
The visitors regained the lead via a flowing move from left to right with Goode finding Ashton, whose grounding under pressure in the corner was confirmed by the TMO. Hodgson's attempted conversion bounced back off the far upright.
Hodgson put Saracens a converted try in front with a straightforward penalty, but the hosts battled gamely and kicked a penalty to the left corner in the closing minutes. However, the visitors resisted as the Sharks had to console themselves with a losing bonus point.
Chris Ashton scored Saracens only try of the match as Saracens beat Sale © Getty Images
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was delighted with the way his team had controlled the match and the way in which they responded when Sale took the lead through Addison's try.
"I thought for the first 25, 30 minutes of the match we were massively in control, built a 12-3 lead. It could have been more," he said. "They gave away countless penalties in their own 22, which Charlie kicked. One of the strengths of our group is that ability to deal with the odd setback here and there, especially away from home, and I thought we showed a lot of composure, a lot of control and a lot of ability to come back and see out the game,"
Sale director of rugby Bryan Redpath was pleased with Cipriani's contribution and expects him to grow in stature when he reaches the peak of his fitness later in the season.
"I thought Danny did pretty well. He kicked pretty well," Redpath said. "You can see that he obviously needs some more time with the players so people can read him. He is a threat and I thought today he was good. It was good to get him out there and he is a talented rugby player and he certainly kicked pretty smartly on certain occasions for us."
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