Sale Sharks qualified for their first final in seven years with a 21-15 victory against Saracens at the Salford City Stadium.
Sale Sharks qualified for their first final in seven years with a 21-15 win against Saracens at the Salford City Stadium.
The Sharks were dealt a pre-match blow when Cameron Shepherd pulled up in the warm-up and youngster Mike Haley was drafted in as a last minute replacement at full-back.
Sale enjoyed much of the early minutes on the attack with Andy Powell and Henry Thomas were making good metres before a knock-on brought a promising series of phases to a halt.
Danny Cipriani put the first points on the board on three minutes with a ten metre penalty. The lead lasted less than two minutes as Saracens scrum-half Ben Spencer kicked a penalty from in front of the posts for Saracens, before kicking his second penalty on seven minutes from 40 metres.
Sale were playing into a very strong wind and even penalty kicks to touch were not relieving the pressure, Spencer adding a third penalty from near half-way.
Play was stopped when Sale captain David Seymour had lengthy treatment for a bang on his shoulder but he resumed albeit looking a little worse for wear. Danny Cipriani brought the Sharks back in contention with another close range penalty.
Saracens applied most of the pressure after the Cipriani penalty and went 6-12 up on 24 minutes with Spencer's fourth penalty.
Sale weathered a lot of Saracens pressure before Tom Holmes won a line out 15 metres out after 37 minutes and charged over for a try. Cipriani's attempted conversion demonstrated how vicious the wind was as it bent away badly after being kicked.
The visitors launched an attack ten minutes into the second half and were rewarded with a penalty which Ben Spencer took. His 100% record was ended when his kick was caught by the wind and went horribly wide.
Saracens were then awarded a penalty 25 metres out going into the final quarter in front of goal which Ben Spencer slotted home.
Sharks mounted a series of attacks on the Saracens line after 66 minutes and Nathan Fowles scored a try in the corner to give the home side the lead. Cipriani judged the conditions perfectly to convert from the touchline with 13 minutes left.
The crowd were on their feet with three minutes to go as Sale were awarded a penalty. Cipriani opted to kick for goal and made no mistake to leave the score at 21-15, as Sale progressed to meet Harlequins in the LV=Cup final next weekend.
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: Holmes, Fowles
Pens: Spencer 5
Sale Sharks: 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Nick Macleod, 11 Charlie Ingall, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Cillian Willis, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour, 6 James Gaskell, 5 Tom Holmes, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Al Dickinson, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Andrei Ostrikov, 20 James Doyle, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Sam James, 23 Will Addison.
Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 James Short, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Joe Maddock, 10 Nils Mordt, 9 Ben Spencer, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Nick Fenton-Wells, 6 Justin Melck, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Nick Auterac.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Jared Saunders, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Jack Wilson.