Saracens - Honours even at the AJ Bell as Sarries battle back to draw in Salford

Feb 27, 2016

Honours even at the AJ Bell as Sarries battle back to draw in Salford


Saracens clawed themselves back from 17-0 down to draw with Sale Sharks 36-36, picking up a try scoring bonus point in a highly entertaining Aviva Premiership contest at the AJ Bell Stadium.

After falling behind to three quick-fire tries, scores from Jim Hamilton, Chris Wyles (x2), Nick Tomkins and Mike Ellery gave Saracens a 36-26 lead with ten minute to play only for the home side to rally and score two late tries to snatch a draw.

Saracens got off to the worst possible start in the first half. In truth, the Sale Sharks cut Sarries to ribbons in the opening ten minutes as they ran in two quick fire tries with some fine offloading that caught the Saracens defence flat-footed.

The first try came from promising Sharks centre Sam James who crossed after eight minutes. Cipriani converted. Minutes later Sharks wing Jonny Leota scored as Sarries were under the posts yet again, trailing 12-0 after just eleven minutes of play.

It got worse for the visitiors, when Tom Arscott raced away for the Sharks third try of the game with not even a quarter of the game having been played.

17-0 down Sarries were understandably swaying, yet the Aviva Premiership champions mounted a fine first half comeback that would see Mark McCall’s side go into the break leading the Sharks 22-17.

The Saracens set-piece has been a constant source of positivity in the 2015/16 season, and it would be from a driving maul that Sarries would stem the Sharks tide, as pack behemoth Jim Hamilton dotted the ball down for his side’s first try. Charlie Hodgson, returning to former club Sale Sharks for the final time of his career as captain, slotted the conversion and then minutes later landed penalty goal to cut Sale’s lead to 17-10.

Hodgson was growing into the game, with the veteran playmaker starting to drag his side into the contest. It would be the Sarries skipper who orchestrated Sarries next score, with a wonderful cut out pass that released wing Chris Wyles. The USA wing showcased his fine finishing ability by squeezing into the left hand corner to ground the ball. Hodgson couldn’t convert with the game finely poised at 17-15 to the hosts.

It was a fine response from the visitors, and it would get better as Wyles finished with some style on the 38th minute mark after Saracens engineered an overlap in the Sharks 22. The decision went to the Match TMO and the try was given the green light. Ben Spencer converted expertly from the touchline with Charlie Hodgson having left the field earlier with a knock.

Sale though are a dogged side, especially at home. Stubborn to the core, the Sharks wouldn’t let the Sarries momentum continue into the second half. Via some Sarries ill-discipline, they kept the scoreboard ticking over with three consecutive Danny Cipirani penalties edging Sale back in front to give them a 26-22 lead approaching the hour mark.

Saracens though responded with a fortuitous Nick Tompkins try after a back field mix-up from Sale gifted the ball to Chris Wyles, who drew Tom Arscott before sending the young Saracens centre into score. Spencer converted the try scoring bonus point score.

Again, the rugby gods would smile upon Sarries when Mike Ellery raced away for a 68th minute intercept try, with the Sarries wing outpacing Danny Cipriani from 60 metres out to send the Sarries bench into raptures as the led 36-26 with ten minutes left to play.

Sale were not to be denied though. Substitute TJ Ioane crossed from a powerful driving maul after 71 minutes, to make the game 36-31 with the profligate Cipriani wayward with his conversion.

Then into the dying seconds the Sharks levelled the game. Tom Arscott finished off a fine team move when free on the left hand side with a huge overlap. Cipriani stepped up with the scores 36-36 but could land the pressure kick.

Sarries kicked off and regained possession with five seconds of play left on the clock. Nils Mordt attempted a drop-goal but the attempt was high and not particularly handsome as it drifted harmlessly away from the Sharks posts. The ball was sent into touch as the game finished 36-36.

Sale Sharks: Haley; Addison, James, Leota, Arscott; Cipriani, Stringer; Harrison, Taylor, Cobilas, Evans, Ostrikov, Neild, Seymour (capt), Easter.

Replacements: Briggs, Lewis-Roberts, Mujati, Mills, Ioane, Cusiter, Ford, Jennings.

Tries: James, Leota, Arscott 2, Ioane Cons: Cipriani Pens: Cipriani 3

Saracens: Ransom; Ellery, Bosch, Tompkins, Wyles; Hodgson (capt), Spencer; Lamositele, Saunders, Du Plessis, Smith, Hamilton, Brown, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Porecki, Barrington, Figallo, Low, Rhodes, Taylor, Mordt, Earle

Tries: Hamilton, Wyles 2, Tompkins, Ellery Cons: Hodgson, Spencer 3 Pens: Hodgson

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