Saracens end Sale Sharks European hopes

Jamie George has committed to playing for Saracens

Saracens ended Sale Sharks chances of progressing in the European Rugby Champions Cup with a 15-19 victory at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday.

It was a second group win of the campaign for Mark McCall’s Saracens side while Sale have now lost three from three and prop up the Pool with just two bonus losing points.

Saracens – last season’s losing finalists – will now welcome Sale to Allianz Park in Round 4 back on track to stay in contention for quarter-final qualification in the wake of this 19-15 success.

The first meeting between the clubs in European competition started at a fast and furious pace and kept going in much the same vein for the full 80 minutes, Saracens having to survive a desperate late Sale onslaught.

Sale Sharks – tournament champions in 2002 and 2005 – saw one of their former favourite sons open the scoring for Saracens as outside half Charlie Hodgson slotted a penalty goal chance with less than five minutes gone.

But the home response was not long in coming, and it came in some style.

Sale opted to use a penalty opportunity to kick for touch and their adventure was duly rewarded with a try that would have delighted lovers of forward play.

The ball was quickly in Magnus Lund’s hands and a superbly drilled driving maul blew the Saracens defence wide open, outside half Danny Cipriani adding the extra points.

But opposite number Hodgson then stole the spotlight, his delightfully angled break from a line-out leaving the Sale defence flat-footed, his pace leaving Mark Cueto clutching at thin air before an expert offload enabled Owen Farrell to stretch over for an unconverted try.

The lead changed hands again when Cipriani hammered over a long range penalty as Hodgson limped off and out of the action for Farrell and Cipriani to go into head-to-head No 10 conflict.

Farrell was quick to boot Sarries back in front with a penalty and they took that slender one-point advantage into the break.

And for Sarries it was quickly a case of “anything you can do, we can do just as well” as they also took a line-out option and their version of a driving maul – with several of the backs joining in and adding their weight – ended with No 8 Billy Vunipola crashing over for their second unconverted try.

With Welsh referee Leighton Hodges also having a fine match Sale closed the gap to just a single point once again with centre Sam Tuitupou making magnificent inroads into the Saracens defence and Russian lock Andrei Ostrikov showing impressive pace to go over for their second try.

Replacement Nick MacLeod missed the conversion and Farrell eased Saracens four points ahead with a smart drop goal, Sale battering the Saracens line in the dying moments but Sarries hanging on to stay in the last eight hunt.

Final Score Sale Sharks 15 (10) Saracens 19 (11)


Sale Sharks
Tries – Lund, Ostrikov
Pen – Cipriani
Con – Cipriani
Drop –
Cards –

Tries – Farrell, B Vunipola
Tries: Hodgson, Farrell
Pen –
Con –
Drop – Farrell
Cards –

Match Officials
Leighton Hodges (Wales),
Assistant ref: (TBA),
Assistant ref: Martyn Lewis (Wales),
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales),
Citing commissioner :Alberto Recaldini (Italy)

Sale Sharks: Michael Haley; Luke McLean, Mark Jennings, Sam Tuitupou, Mark Cueto; Danny Cipriani, Chris Cusiter; Eifion Lewis-Roberts, Marc Jones, Vadim Cobilas, Jon Mills, Andrei Ostrikov, Mark Easter, Magnus Lund (c), Josh Beaumont

Replacements: Shalva Mamukashvili, Ross Harrison, James Flynn, Vili Fihaki, Andrew Hughes, Will Cliff, Nick MacLeod, Will Addison

Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Duncan Taylor, Owen Farrell, David Strettle; Charlie Hodgson, Richard Wigglesworth; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Petrus du Plessis, George Kruis, Alistair Hargreaves (c), Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger, Billy Vunipola

Replacements: Brett Sharman, Richard Barrington, James Johnston, Jim Hamilton, Jackson Wray, Neil de Kock, Marcelo Bosch, Chris Wyles

With thanks to EPCRugby.

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