Sale gave Pete Anglesea his first Premiership victory in his short tenure on Sunday as they beat Saracens 28-22 at Edgeley Park.
Sale gave Pete Anglesea his first Aviva Premiership victory in his short tenure on Sunday as they overcame Saracens 28-22 at Edgeley Park.
Former club captain Anglesea succeeded Mike Brewer two days before Christmas, more than two months after their previous domestic success.
Anglesea's first game in charge was a 54-21 humbling at champions Leicester, but his side looked revitalised in front of their home crowd.
They dominated the first half, with new captain Mark Cueto and his predecessor James Gaskell going over in the first 10 minutes and Chris Bell adding a third try before the interval.
Saracens looked more like a team third in the table after the interval, but could only manage a single try from James Short.
Cueto, who limped off midway through the second half, was joined in the side by fellow England internationals Charlie Hodgson and Andrew Sheridan, returning from foot and back injuries respectively. Gaskell was also back from an ankle problem.
For Saracens, Wales and British Lions international Gavin Henson made his first start for almost two years, one position outside his accustomed inside centre, while Mouritz Botha, Jacques Burger, Andy Saull, Alex Goode and Richard Wigglesworth returned – the latter against his former club.
Saracens took an early lead via a straightforward Owen Farrell penalty, but Sale soon struck back, moving the ball left before Paul Williams chipped through for Cueto to run onto near the left corner.
The hosts continued to attack and Gaskell burrowed over on the left five minutes later, with the score confirmed after lengthy deliberation from the video referee. Hodgson had missed his first conversion attempt but this time slotted a simpler kick.
The fly-half then extended Sale's lead to 12 points with a penalty from an identical position.
Having struck the posts with a drop-kick in the immediate build-up, Hodgson added a third kick from almost the same spot and another from in front of the posts.
It got even better for the Sharks as they attacked down the right and fed Bell, who broke Goode's tackle before going over. Hodgson added the extras.
Saracens finally worked their way into the opposition 22 and Farrell kicked the simplest of penalties. He added another central kick, albeit from further out, to make it 28-9 at the interval.
The opening minutes of the second period were much tighter than the first and the nearest the score came to changing was a Hodgson drop-kick flying narrowly wide.
Saracens made four changes 13 minutes into the half, most notably taking off Henson who had made little impact.
Sale number eight Sisa Koyamaibole was fortunate to go unpunished for a late tackle on Farrell and, from a later penalty in front of the posts, the stand-off kicked the half's first points.
With Cueto replaced, Saracens scored from a flowing move down the left, which Short finished under the posts having dummied the last defender.
Farrell's fifth penalty, from a central position five minutes from time, ensured a nervy finish for the majority of a 8,646-strong crowd, but their team held on as the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Tries: Cueto, Gaskell, Bell
Con: Hodgson 2
Pen: Hodgson 3
Pen: Farrell 5
Sale: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Rhys Crane, 13 Chris Bell, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Mark Cueto (c), 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Sisa Koyamaibole 7 Carl Fearns, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Kristian Ormsby, 4 Chris Jones, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Ben Roberts, 17 Lee Imiolek, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Sean Cox, 20 Neil McMillan, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Mathew Tait.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Michael Tagicakibau, 13 Gavin Henson, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Jacques Burger, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 James Ellershaw, 19 George Kruis, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Kevin Barrett, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Noah Cato.
Referee: Dave Pearson