MATCH REPORT: Sale Sharks 14-38 Saracens Women
After a disappointing start against Bristol, this was some response from Saracens Women, as a supreme second half left Sale Sharks all at sea, in a bonus point victory at Heywood Road.
Three weeks on from a defeat at the StoneX to Bristol, Saracens came into this one in the mood to transfer their hard work on the training pitch into a victory.
With the Sharks faithful in full voice ahead of kick-off, a fast start was needed to dampen their mood in the pouring rain.
It took just two minutes for Saracens to do just that, with a sweeping backs move allowing Abi Evans to skate over out wide for her second score in as many games.
If the finish was a good one, then the build-up play was perhaps even better, as the returning Vicky Fleetwood carved her way through the middle of the Sharks defence.
Sale though stuck to their gameplan, as they built the phases in the Saracens half, before May Campbell popped up with a timely turnover for her side.
Whilst Fleetwood’s surge created the first try, her second saw her finish off the break herself, as she burst free from the would-be defenders to wrestle her way over for a well-deserved try.
The Sharks though, were sticking to their attacking structures, as they looked to force their way back into the game.
They found the try they were searching for too, as they crashed over out wide after repeated phases.
The hosts were in again shortly after, as fullback Lauren Delany chased down her own kick to score out wide, with Courtney Pursglove’s conversion edging her side into the lead.
Saracens though, weren’t going to let that setback phase them, as they went in search of a try to take them back into the lead.
They found it shortly before the half, after May Campbell had been held up over the line. The backrow was working in tandem now and, after Sharifa Kasolo and Grace Moore had punched significant holes in the Sharks defence, Fleetwood was on hand to rumble over for her second off the back of a maul.
Whatever was said at halftime certainly seemed to do the trick, with Saracens securing the bonus point shortly after the interval.
Backrow Moore had shown flashes of her line breaking ability in the opening fixture against Bristol, but this time she produced something spectacular.
With nothing on in the middle of the park, the Irish international put her head down and powered through the first tackle, before brushing off the attentions of the Sale defence to race in from halfway.
It was all going so right for Saracens, until the game was stopped with Fleetwood down in significant pain. After a long delay, the backrow was stretchered from the field, as her side looked to refocus the minds and kick on.
Saracens needed another moment to reenergise the attack and it came from the impressive Sharifa Kasolo, as she did her best impression of fellow backrow Moore, to carve the Sale defence to shreds.
The Sharks defence would hold firm, and they looked to respond next deep inside the Sarries 22. They were thwarted though after some stunning maul defence from the pack.
That defensive effort seemed to snuff out any hopes the Sharks had of a comeback. Saracens were beginning to turn the screw at the scrum now, with Flo Long proving her worth and then some at loosehead prop.
Whilst Saracens were firmly in the ascendency, it took something special to create the fifth try of the afternoon. With Kelsey Clifford, Fi Mcintosh linking up quite spectacularly with some beautiful offloading, centre Hannah Casey powered her way up to the line.
She was stopped just short, but there was no denying Saracens, as Campbell powered over for her fourth try in two matches this season.
That score more or less ended the game as a contest, with Saracens continuing their ascendency at scrum time.
They were beginning to take control of the breakdown as well, with Campbell securing a crucial turnover for her side.
As the game entered its final ten minutes, Saracens continued to look to apply the pressure, with Sale’s Hollie Bawden seeing yellow for killing the ball at the breakdown.
If you’re a fan of pure scrummaging power, Saracens were now providing it in spades, to leave the Sharks backtracking at a rate of knots.
Eventually, the pressure finally told as, after a series of close range carries from the pack, Kasolo reached out an arm to score the try her performance deserved.
Whilst the side will still be looking to improve certain aspects of the performance, this was a consummate display away from home. Attention now turns to next week’s home encounter with Loughborough.