Saracens up and running with win over Sale
Saracens returned to Aviva Premiership winning ways after successive defeats to keep the pressure on leaders Wasps with a 29-18 victory over a battling Sale.
It was credit to the Sharks that Saracens were unable to get a try bonus point after touchdowns from full-back Duncan Taylor, former England flyer Chris Ashton and wing Nathan Earle. Fly-half Alex Lozowski kicked 14 points with four penalties and a conversion.
Sale closed to within eight points of their opponents through a solitary try from flanker Magnus Lund, a penalty and conversion from replacement AJ McGinty and another penalty by captain Will Addison but were undone afterwards.
Sale's director of rugby Steve Diamond watched with his coaches from the stand as he started the first match of his touchline ban for verbally abusing an official in his side's Anglo-Welsh Cup victory over Harlequins.
And he would have had a few words to say in the changing room at half-time as Sale let slip an early lead from Addison's penalty to leak a couple of tries.
Indeed, it was unfortunate for centre Addison, a solid performer, that he went off after only nine minutes when falling heavily on his right ankle while challenging Taylor for a high ball.
Saracens took the lead when pressuring inside the Sale 22 saw centre Marcelo Bosch send a high and wide pass across to Taylor on the left wing who stole in from 10 metres.
Sale regained the lead when Addison's replacement, McGinty, landed a thumping forty metre penalty but Lozowski reclaimed the two point Saracens advantage with his first penalty.
Sarries, without 10 big guns through Six Nations duty or out injured, were still a powerful unit for Sale to contend with and could call on ex-England caps like Ashton to score, as he did when collecting a Richard Wigglesworth chip inside the Sale 22.
Lozowski's conversion and two further penalties took the home side in to half-time 21-6 ahead.
Saracens closed in on a third try early after the break, but Sale responded and twice almost scored through number eight Josh Beaumont and tight head prop Halani Aulika.
And that effort reaped its' rewards when another attack deep into Saracens territory saw fly-half Sam James catch the home defence napping, place a lovely grubber kick into the in-goal area for Lund to just touch down before it went dead.
McGinty converted and suddenly Sale were within eight points of their high-flying hosts.
But just as Sale started to think about a second away win of the season, Saracens went further ahead when Lozowski booted his fourth penalty before Ashton and Bosch set-up Earle for an unconverted try in the corner.
Those were hammer blows for the Sharks who bit back with five minutes to go when Nield found his way past the defence to get an unconverted touchdown.
And, as Saracens tried for the bonus point with attacking scrums on the Sale line, the visitors bravely held out and denied them the extra point.