Saracens run in five tries to begin Premiership reign with win over Sale
Reigning Aviva Premiership champions Saracens began their campaign with a convincing 41-3 victory over Sale at Allianz Park.
Saracens scored five tries through Mike Ellery (two), Michael Rhodes, Will Fraser and Tim Streather, with Charlie Hodgson's immaculate kicking being rewarded with two penalties and five conversions. Alex Goode added one conversion following Hodgson's departure.
The home side dominated in all areas with Sale putting in a particularly poor performance. The visitors' pack retreated at every scrum so there was no platform for Danny Cipriani to develop. As a result, he turned in a disappointing effort, distinguished by some aimless kicking.
Cipriani's penalty was Sale's only score as Saracens relaxed after building up a match-winning lead of 27-3 before the interval.
Cipriani was in Sale's starting line-up, partnering Chris Cusiter at half-back. New signings, Bryn Evans and Bryan Mujati made their Premiership debut for the club.
England squad members Goode and Jamie George started for Saracens with Mako Vunipola and George Kruis on the bench. Michael Rhodes, a summer signing from the Stormers, made his debut in the back row.
It was Rhodes, who put Sarries ahead after only five minutes by finishing off a driving line-out for a try, which Hodgson converted.
Sale had their first chance for points but Cipriani was wide with a penalty attempt before Hodgson rewarded the home side's dominance in the opening quarter by kicking a penalty.
Cipriani was successful with his second kick at goal to leave his side trailing 10-3 at the end of the first quarter before Hodgson extended Saracens' lead with his second penalty.
After 28 minutes, Saracens scored their second try. From a line-out in the visitors' 22, a strong burst from Duncan Taylor got the hosts over the gain line before Streather slipped past a weak tackle from Sale wing Will Addison for the try.
With the last movement of the first half, Sarries sealed the match with another try. A well-timed pass from Hodgson sent Goode away, who had no trouble in sending Ellery over. Hodgson added his fourth conversion for a 27-3 half-time lead.
Within five minutes of the re-start, Saracens lost Taylor through injury, with the centre still groggy after a first half collision. Nick Tompkins replaced him before Vunipola and Kruis were introduced with half an hour remaining.
Despite now playing against the wind, Sale showed more fight in the opening period of the second half than they did in the whole of the first.
Mujati split the home defence apart with one powerful run but Sale could not capitalise and the hosts resumed control.
The game became very scrappy, being disrupted by a whole host of replacements, which resulted in the third quarter being scoreless.
However after 62 minutes, Saracens picked up a bonus point when a clever inside pass from Ben Spencer sent Ellery in for his second try. Hodgson converted before leaving the field to be replaced by Ben Ransom.
Cipriani was also replaced at that stage as was his skipper Dan Braid, but it made little difference to their inept performance with Fraser's late try emphasising Saracens' superiority.