Planet Rugby

Saracens pip Sale Sharks

09th March 2008 16:59

Share:

Cencus Johnston Saracens

Prop Idol: Cencus Johnston finds a gap

Saracens ended their three-match losing run with a tense 24-20 victory over Sale at Vicarage Road on Sunday, a result which keeps their Guinness Premiership play-off hopes very much alive.

A fourth successive defeat would have left them with a big gap to close, but Saracens opened up a 21-0 lead and then resisted Sale's second-half rally to go level on points with the north-west side.

Forwards Ben Skirving and Cencus Johnston scored the first-half tries which put the home side in the driving seat.

Fly-half Glen Jackson moved to the top of the Premiership scoring chart with a 14-point contribution as he landed five kicks from six attempts.

Jackson's four penalties and a conversion took him to 134 for the season, enabling him to overtake Sale's Charlie Hodgson, on 124, who missed the match after coming off the replacements bench for England at Murrayfield 24 hours earlier.

Sale replied with tries from Sebastien Chabal and Oriol Ripol, with former New Zealand international Luke McAlister, who switched from centre to fly-half in the absence of Hodgson, kicking two conversions and two penalties.

But they were always chasing the game after Saracens went 21-0 ahead in the first half.

Sale missed a third-minute opportunity to take the lead when Ripol needlessly put a foot in touch before supplying a return pass to full-back Mark Cueto who had the line at his mercy.

Jackson opened the scoring 11 minutes later after Sale were caught offside but was fortunate not to concede a try when Sharks scrum-half Sililo Martens charged down his clearance kick.

Saracens celebrated their escape when number eight Skirving ran 45 metres through the middle for a try when he snatched up the ball after visiting winger Julien Laharrague spilled a pass.

The winger, whose right thigh was heavily strapped, was immediately withdrawn and replaced by Chris Mayor.

Jackson landed two more penalties and was also on target with the conversion after Johnston, the heavyweight Samoan prop, scored a try worthy of a winger, stepping inside three Sale players near the right-hand touchline before powering his way to the line.

Sale opened their account in the final minute of the first half when Chabal, the number eight overlooked by France for this season's Six Nations, forced his way over from close range and McAlister converted.

The Sale pack, with flanker Kris Chesney making a record-equalling 193rd Guinness Premiership appearance to go level with Wasps second row Simon Shaw and former London Irish prop Neal Hatley - provided a solid foundation in the first half after successive defeats by Newcastle, Harlequins and London Irish.

But Sale stepped up their game in the second half, leaving Saracens grateful to hang on for victory.

McAlister kicked two penalties to reduce the deficit to 21-13 before Jackson kicked his fourth penalty for the home side.

Sale were denied a second try when Saracens full-back Richard Haughton made a last-ditch tackle on McAlister who had glided through a gaping hole in the home defence.

Then it was Saracens' turn to squander a gilt-edged opportunity when right wing Rodd Penney burst through but held on to the ball too long before compounding the error by throwing a forward pass to centre Dan Scarbrough, who had a clear run to the line.

The scorers:

For Saracens:

Tries: Skirving, Johnson

Cons: Jackson

Pens: Jackson 4

For Sale Sharks:

Tries: Chabal, Ripol

Cons: McAlister 2

Pens: McAlister 2

Saracens: 15 Richard Haughton, 14 Kameli Ratuvou, 13 Dan Scarbrough, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Rodd Penney, 10 Glen Jackson, 9 Neil de Kock (c), 8 Ben Skirving, 7 Don Barrell, 6 Kris Chesney, 5 Hugh Vyvyan, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Cencus Johnston, 2 Andy Kyriacou, 1 Nick Lloyd.

Replacements: 16 Matt Cairns, 17 Cobus Visagie, 18 Tom Ryder, 19 Paul Gustard, 20 Moses Rauluni, 21 Brent Russell, 22 Edd Thrower.

Sale Sharks: 15 Mark Cueto, 14 Julien Laharrague, 13 Chris Bell, 12 Elvis Seveali'i, 11 Oriol Ripol, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Sililo Martens, 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Chris Jones, 4 Dean Schofield (c), 3 Eifion Roberts, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Lionel Faure.

Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Terry Sigley, 18 Sean Cox, 19 Nathan Bonner Evans, 20 Will Cliff, 21 Lee Thomas, 22 Ben Foden.

Referee: Dean Richards

Touch judges: Paul Emerson, Andrew Watson

Assessor: Paul Bridgman

Television match official: Laurie Bryant

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens vs NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Preview
London Welsh vs Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Preview
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Sunday , November 23
Georgia vs JapanGeorgia vs Japan Preview
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Sunday , November 23
Treviso vs LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Preview
Edinburgh vs Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Preview
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Montpellier18:00
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
England 28 - 9 Samoa
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle FalconsBath vs Newcastle Falcons Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Romania 13 - 18 JapanRomania vs Japan Report
France 29 - 26 AustraliaFrance vs Australia Report
Scotland 16 - 24 New ZealandScotland vs New Zealand Report
England 28 - 31 South AfricaEngland vs South Africa Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Exeter828
2Bath828
3Northampton726
4Saracens724
5Wasps820