Match Report: Saracens Men 25-14 Sale Sharks
Saracens Men returned to Gallagher Premiership action in style as they registered a hard-fought 25-14 win over Sale Sharks at StoneX Stadium.
Mark McCall’s men defended for large periods but were clinical in attack, as tries from Vincent Koch, Sean Maitland and Max Malins proved enough to move Sarries back up to second in the league table.
The Men in Black started strongly and a huge scrum just inside the Sale half gave them a penalty, and Alex Lozowski made no mistake from the tee to give the hosts an early 3-0 lead.
The Sharks then enjoyed a spell of possession and Raffi Quirke’s kick ahead threatened the Sarries line, but luckily Aled Davies spotted the danger and got back to dot it down.
The first try-scoring opportunity of the match went to Rotimi Segun as turnover ball was spun wide to the winger, but despite his dancing feet he was scrambled in to touch by the aggressive Sale defence.
The next chance however was taken as Sarries scored their first of the afternoon courtesy of Koch. A brilliant touch-finder from Alex Goode gave them a lineout just five metres out, and a smart move saw the ball quickly moved from the receiver down to the maul which allowed the South African to drive over. Lozowski’s conversion took the lead up to 10-0 with 20 minutes played.
Sale were growing in to the game and had a chance to get on the board, but AJ MacGinty’s long-range penalty came back off the crossbar and then Max Malins hammered the ball away.
In an otherwise uneventful first half in freezing conditions, the Sarries defence held firm and another penalty from Lozowski in the final play meant they went down the tunnel with a 13-0 advantage at the break.
Sale started the second half strongly and had a couple of good chances, but then the game changed as tempers boiled over five minutes after the restart.
Nick Tompkins’ brilliant covering tackle stopped a certain try, and then he was taken out off the ball by Byron McGuigan which resulted in a red card for the Sale winger.
Sarries took advantage immediately as Maitland crossed for a brilliant score to put the hosts in complete control. Billy Vunipola took a free kick quickly and bulldozed over the gain line before his looping pass found the winger who had a clear run to the line. The conversion went wide, but the lead was now 18-0 with 30 minutes remaining.
Sale continued to knock on the door but it played in to Sarries’ hands, as Lozowski then turned defence in to attack with an opportunistic break, and if his offload to Malins hadn’t gone to ground it may well have been one of the tries of the season.
The visitors did eventually get their score just after the hour mark as their possession got the reward. A string of penalties took them up to the line, and then Ben Curry took a quick tap which saw him crash over from just five metres out. The conversion meant the lead was down to 11 points as we entered the closing stages.
The result was then put beyond doubt when Malins marked his return from international duty with a score inside the final 10 minutes. Sarries powered all the way up to the line, and then a sensational piece of skill from Goode unlocked the defence with his inside ball fooling everyone and allowing Malins to stroll through. Lozowski’s conversion took the lead up to 25-7.
Sale refused to lie down though and responded immediately to give themselves the chance of registering a bonus point. The defence switched off and a burst through the middle took the Sharks in to the 22, and the inside ball to Quirke saw him dive over under the sticks.
The Manchester based side then threw the ball around in search of a way back, but the defence remained solid and Sarries held out for an impressive win, putting them in good stead for the mammoth match at Sandy Park next Saturday against Exeter Chiefs.