Danny Cipriani misses late chance as Sale and Saracens share spoils in thriller
Danny Cipriani missed a late conversion that would have been a match-winner as Sale Sharks and Saracens battled out a remarkable 36-36 draw at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Sale surged into a 17-0 lead in the Aviva Premiership tussle through tries from Sam James, Johnny Leota and Tom Arscott, but Saracens came back brilliantly to be in front by the interval.
Jim Hamilton and Chris Wyles, who scored a pair of tries, touched down, while Charlie Hodgson and Ben Spencer added the conversions.
Hodgson, on his last appearance at the club where he started his career, also kicked a penalty before he was forced off the field with a head injury.
Cipriani kicked three penalties in the second period, but scores by Nick Tompkins and Mike Ellery moved the visitors 36-26 ahead.
TJ Ioane and Arscott crossed the whitewash late on to level matters, but stand-off Cipriani was off-target with both conversions, the last of them following a 79th-minute try.
Mark McCall's Saracens men went into the game off the back of an impressive 24-12 victory over Gloucester, which had been a superb result considering Schalk Brits' first-half red card.
That sending-off and subsequent three-week ban forced the visitors into a change at hooker with the inexperienced Jared Saunders coming into the starting line-up.
It was an alteration which unsurprisingly had an impact on proceedings as a misdirected throw at an early lineout allowed Sale to mount an attack from the resultant scrum.
Steve Diamond's side duly produced a brilliant move where James, Mike Haley and Will Addison all combined and the hosts' outside centre finished it off.
Moments later the Sharks had their second try. Once again, it was superbly constructed as Cipriani's neat chip-kick bounced kindly for James and the 21-year-old did superbly to find Leota on the right wing to cross the whitewash.
With the Manchester outfit managing to find holes in the Saracens rearguard at will, the away team's memories would have gone back to two weeks ago when they yielded 64 points to Wasps.
And following Arscott's score, an effort which once again displayed excellent skill levels, it appeared a realistic proposition, but this time Saracens managed to fight back.
They soon halted Sale's momentum and went on the attack, setting up camp in the opposition 22 and touching down through lock Hamilton.
Hodgson kicked a penalty to reduce the arrears further before the visitors went over again as Tompkins displayed his quality, arching a run and then timing his pass perfectly for Wyles to scamper clear.
From 17-0 down, McCall's men had brought themselves back into contention and were on top in both possession and territory.
They put on enough pressure to crack the hosts' defence for a third time when Wyles crossed the whitewash in controversial fashion.
The winger went down early and appeared to be in touch but, after consultation with the television match official, referee Tim Wigglesworth awarded the try and Saracens held a 22-17 advantage at half-time.
Having started so well, the Sharks were shell-shocked, but they managed to regain their composure at the start of the second period.
With the wind at their backs, the hosts could control field position and that allowed Cipriani to kick successive three-pointers and restore Sale's lead.
Despite a third Cipriani penalty, Saracens responded in what was proving to be a topsy-turvy affair as a poor pass by Haley put Addison in trouble. Instead of taking the contact, the wing compounded the issue by passing straight to Wyles, who drew the last defender and fed Tompkins for a simple score.
Sale were starting to make errors and another significant mistake led to a fifth Saracens try when Ellery intercepted and ran across the whitewash unopposed.
But the Sharks were not finished and, after Ioane reduced the arrears following a dominant drive, Arscott went over to make it 36-36.
Cipriani had the chance to win it but he was off target from the tee.