Sarries win, but miss bonus point

Date published: December 13 2014

Billy Vunipola was the star of the show as Saracens beat Sale 28-15 to move top of Pool One in the European Champions Cup.

The powerful number eight scored one and made another as Saracens picked up their third win of the campaign, but crucially they could not find a fourth try.

Alex Goode and Ben Ransom scored the other home tries, with Nathan Hines and Eifion Lewis-Roberts going over for the visitors.

Sarries were well aware that a win would see them top the table before Clermont and Munster clashed in Sunday’s game in France, but also knew a bonus point would aid their push for the knockout phases.

They started with intensity, and should have been in for a try had it not been for an uncharacteristic error from David Strettle. Chris Ashton came over from his wing to help, and when he released the ball for his teammate, the line was in sight. Strettle fumbled though, and Sale survived the early onslaught.

Sarries were pressing, but weren’t creating as many clear cut chances as they would have liked. Two Owen Farrell penalties did at least carve out an early lead.

It was cut back soon after though. Sharks may be all but out of the tournament, but Nathan Hines made it clear that they wouldn’t go out without a fight when he leapt over the back of a ruck to touch down and keep the home side in a game.

Mark McCall’s men reacted to the setback, and broke the Sale resistance late in the half. Goode stepped in from full back to charge in to the corner and score.

It was no less than they deserved, though Steve Diamond will have been encouraged by a penalty just before the break which meant his side were just three adrift.

Saracens were the only team in it after half time, and after a Farrell penalty they got their second try of the night.

Billy Vunipola broke past three tackles and offloaded to Chris Wyles, who in turn fed the ball across for Ransom. The replacement had the simple task of speeding past Mike Haley and over the line.

That gave Sarries a base to build on as they went in search of a precious extra point. It took them until the 74th minute, but they finally got the third through the fantastic Vunipola.

The bonus point was in sight. There was another try, but it was scored by a Sale side that would lie down. Lewis-Roberts had his hands on the ball as Sharks mauled over the line and added some gloss to the scoreline. >

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Goode, Ransom, B Vunipola
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 3
Yellow Card: Sharman

For Sale:
Tries: Hines, Lewis-Roberts
Con: Ford
Pen: Macleod

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 George Kruis, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 James Johnston, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Ben Ransom

Sale: 15 Michael Haley, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Will Addison, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Nick MacLeod, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Josh Beaumont, 7 Dan Braid (c), 6 Mark Easter, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Shalva Mamukashvili, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Neild, 17 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18 James Flynn, 19 Jon Mills, 20 Andrew Hughes, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Andy Forsyth

Venue: Allianz Park, Barnet
Referee: J