Saracens cruise past Sale
Danny Cipriani's hopes of capitalising on Owen Farrell's absence to press his England claims crumbled as Saracens completed a bonus-point 40-19 Aviva Premiership victory over Sale at Allianz Park.
Sale's line was breached by Alex Goode, Ernst Joubert and Richard Barrington, while referee JP Doyle also awarded a penalty try after a five-metre scrum had collapsed.
Even when the Sharks were resurgent in the third quarter Cipriani was unable to take centre stage with all-action number eight Mark Easter his team's star performer.
Farrell has been ruled out for a number of weeks with a thigh strain, placing his involvement in England's autumn series in minor doubt, but the presence of Charlie Hodgson meant his absence was barely noticed.
Hodgson was typically assured, directing the beaten Premiership finalists and kicking three conversions and three penalties until he departed in the 71st minute with ice strapped to his knee.
England wing Chris Ashton engaged in a second-half fracas with Jonny Leota that may interest the citing officer, but he was provoked by the Sale centre, who pushed him over the advertising hoarding.
Openside David Seymour and wing Tom Brady ran in tries for the Sharks, who were also given a penalty try by Doyle.
Cipriani's start was not what he was hoping for after one clearance was charged down by Brad Barritt - who limped off shortly after - and a second went sideways, inviting pressure on Sale.
The Sharks' defence cracked after just minutes when Goode easily side-stepped lock Jonathan Mills and weaved his way over the 22 and across the whitewash.
A conversion and penalty, both by Hodgson, saw Saracens surge 10-0 ahead but in a rare sight their pack crumbled before a line-out catch and drive.
Easter caught the ball and Sale's pack rapidly ate up the remaining 20 minutes to the try line with Seymour peeling off and diving over.
Two more penalties from Hodgson restored daylight to the lead and when a Sharks turnover acted as the prelude to their line being breached a second time, a bleak afternoon beckoned.
Hodgson's vision put Ashton in the open and the England wing timed his pass well to enable Joubert to force his body over.
Hodgson could do little wrong as his conversion struck the right upright and crept in, although Saracens' ensuing attempts to turn the screw were met by some dogged Sharks defence.
Sale were unable to prevent their scrum splintering from five metres out, however, and Doyle awarded the penalty try under the posts.
It was a resurgent Sharks who emerged for the second half and their efforts were rewarded in the 53rd minute when a break by substitute Vadim Cobilas ended with Brady crossing.
Cipriani was involved as Sale renewed their assault but were stopped short of the whitewash with Doyle showing Goode a yellow card for coming in at the side.
The storm weathered, Saracens struck back when Barrington burrowed over after England Under-20 star Nick Tompkins - the official man of the match - had made inroads with Richard Wigglesworth converting.
Sale responded with a penalty try of their own after another impressive line-out drive as a scruffy match became increasingly chaotic.
Saracens lock George Kruis and Seymour were sin-binned before Goode landed a penalty to complete the victory.