MATCH REPORT | Sale Sharks 12-18 Saracens Men
Saracens Men secured what could well turn out to be a hugely significant victory as they beat Sale Sharks 18-12 at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Two tries from the Player of the Match Ben Earl were enough to overturn an early deficit and register a fourth consecutive victory in the Gallagher Premiership which further consolidates their place in the play-offs.
The opening exchanges were particularly cagey with both sides not giving an inch, but with 10 minutes on the clock it was Sale who edged in front courtesy of Robert du Preez’s boot.
They were awarded a penalty 35 metres out, and he dissected the posts to put the hosts 3-0 in front.
Sarries were looking to respond straight away and Elliot Daly had a long-range penalty, but his effort blew just wide in the wind.
Sale were then awarded another penalty after Aled Davies and Vincent Koch collided with Faf de Klerk, and du Preez was on target again as their lead grew to 6-0.
The Sharks then had a golden chance as Daniel du Preez carried straight through the ruck but he was brought down just short, and then de Klerk’s looping pass was knocked on to the relief of the visiting supporters.
The North Londoners then had two opportunities from the tee but they went narrowly wide, however they couldn’t be kept out for much longer as they crossed for a crucial try with just two minutes until half time.
This time they kicked a penalty to the corner, and the maul powered towards the line from close range before Ben Earl broke away to dot down from just one metre out. That proved to be the last act of an attritional opening 40 minutes, with Sale heading down the tunnel 6-5 ahead.
The second half began with another penalty opportunity for Sarries who were looking to play more with ball in hand and got their reward just four minutes after the restart.
Lozowski wasted no time in pointing for the posts, and to his credit after a tricky first half he slotted it straight through, putting his side in front for the first time in the match.
The visitors were starting to enjoy the majority of the possession as the clock ticked through the second half. Davies’ smart kick in behind was inches away from bouncing in to Nick Tompkins’ hands, but it was just too high for him and Sale escaped.
Another chance followed as a big carry from Billy Vunipola drew the defence in and then it was spun wide to Max Malins, but his inside pass to Earl was covered and he was dragged in to touch.
The possession was then rewarded again, as the Sale defence strayed offside and Lozowski slotted another kick from straight in front of the posts as the lead grew to 11-6.
A moment of genius from Daly then almost resulted in a try of the season contender, he spotted Malins in space on the wing and his perfectly judged cross-kick landed in the winger’s hands, but just as he looked like he was racing clear a Sale defender managed to pull him down.
Sale then got back to within two points as du Preez kicked his third penalty of the night as Sarries were caught at the breakdown, meaning the lead was now just two points with 15 minutes to go.
Then came the match winning moment as Earl, who was having an outstanding game crossed for his second with just eight minutes left.
From the base of a line out they went through the phases and the Malins went flying through a gap in the defence. His pass back out to the wing bounced up for Earl, who smashed over the final defender and dived over in the corner. Alex Goode’s excellent conversion extended the lead to 18-9.
Sale had a huge chance to get back in range as Luke James danced through the defence and grubbered through deep in to the 22, but the ball won the race and went dead thankfully for the visitors.
Du Preez then ensured that the hosts would at least get a losing bonus point by kicking his fourth penalty with the final play of the game, but Sarries could celebrate what was a highly impressive victory away from home.