Sale Sharks held off Saracens in a nail-biting match at Salford Stadium to remain top of the Premiership; Sale are four points ahead with Bath and five points ahead of Harlequins, with the second and third-placed teams meeting on Saturday
Last Updated: 22/12/23 10:42pm
Sale Sharks showed their title credentials as they edged out fellow high-fliers Saracens 22-20 in a festive thriller to stay top of the Premiership.
It is now 12 home league victories on the spin for the Sharks, who notched three tries in difficult conditions to go clear at the summit.
Ahead of a repeat of last season’s Premiership final, both teams went into this packed-out Salford Stadium clash on the back of a pair of mixed results in the Champions Cup.
There were a number of handling errors early on as both teams sought to get to grips with the swirling wind. However, Mark McCall’s Sarries, who got the better of Connacht last time out in Europe, were first on the board as Owen Farrell kicked a routine close-range penalty after Sharks lost out at a scrum.
The hosts, beaten 37-28 by Leinster last weekend, responded with some vigour, and in the 18th minute they bagged themselves a classic pushover try.
Argentinian Agustin Creevy barged over following a successful maul, with George Ford’s conversion making it 7-3. By the time the game entered its second quarter Sale were starting to hold sway, though a break from either side always looked on the cards.
Saracens withheld some big pressure from the hosts, but with the final action of the first half they were presented with a gift to send them in at the break ahead. Ivan van Zyl easily intercepted a shocking Gus Warr pass and darted unopposed to touch down under the posts.
Farrell’s boot handed the visitors a 10-7 interval advantage. However, Sale needed only four minutes of the second period to retake the lead. The backs shifted the ball wide to Tom Roebuck, and he dived over ahead of an unsuccessful, wind-affected extras attempt by Ford.
This intriguing clash was there for either side to take, and Sale scored again before 50 minutes were up. Replacement Luke Cowan-Dickie powered over after the hosts won a lineout, with Ford this time successful off a post as his kick stretched the lead to 19-10.
A Sale offside handed Farrell a simple kick to reduce the arrears to six points, but Alex Sanderson’s Sharks stuck at their task and soon got the three points back through Ford.
When Gareth Simpson scored and Farrell converted expertly to bring the score back to 22-20, though, tension among the home support increased again with still 10 minutes left.
Ford saw a late penalty attempt strike a post, but in the end that was inconsequential as the near 10,000-strong home crowd went on to celebrate a truly hard-earned victory.
Newcastle Falcons 13-21 Bristol Bears
Bristol Bears made it back-to-back Gallagher Premiership wins after producing a gritty away display to beat winless Newcastle 21-13 at Kingston Park.
An early try from hooker Harry Thacker preceded Louie Johnson’s penalty in first-half stoppage time to hand the Bears a 7-3 advantage at the break.
Rory Jennings’ superb kick reduced the deficit to a single point but there was no comeback on the cards despite relentless pressure on a heroic visiting backline.
Virimi Vakatawa ended all home hope with an excellent try, with Gabriel Oghre getting another late on to lift them above Leicester in the table – Kiran McDonald’s late try for the Falcons proving only a minor blemish.
Source : Sky Sports