Aviva Premiership: Leaders Saracens see off brave Sale Sharks
Last Updated: 30/11/13 11:31pm
Saracens left it late to retain top spot in the Aviva Premiership, George Kruis' 72nd-minute try clinching a 24-19 victory over Sale at Allianz Park.
Orchestrated superbly by fly-half Danny Cipriani, who converted his own first-half try and also kicked a drop goal, the Sharks looked capable to causing an upset in the capital.
In the end, however, Kruis forced his way over in the left corner six minutes from time for a Sarries try that Charlie Hodgson converted.
The former Sale no 10 also added a penalty to make the result safe, though the visitors did at least get a losing bonus point thanks to a late three points from the boot of replacement Nick Macleod.
Hodgson registered 14 points against his former club, including opening the scoring in just the second minute with a 40-metre penalty.
Yet it was Sale who claimed the first try of the afternoon, winger Charlie Ingall snapping up a loose ball to send Cipriani on a clear run to the line for a try that he also converted.
Sale suffered two injury blows in the opening 15 minutes, with, former Wales scrum-half Dwayne Peel and left-wing Will Addison replaced by Will Cliff and Tom Brady respectively.
Saracens lost England Saxons flanker Will Fraser, carried off on a stretcher with a serious-looking leg injury, but did cut the deficit with Hodgson's second penalty.
Long-range kicking specialist Rob Miller restored the four-point gap with a huge penalty from six metres inside his own half, and the advantage was up to seven when Cipriani sent over a drop goal.
Perhaps stinging from a few choice half-time words, Saracens started the second half on the front foot.
Jack Wilson marked his Premiership debut for Saracens with a try five minutes after the break, but Hodgson, who had supplied the final pass after a succession of forward drives, missed the conversion.
The Sharks responded with a 20-metre penalty from Cipriani before having a try disallowed after Ingall crossed in the right hand corner only for referee JP Doyle to consult the television match official and bring play back for a blatant knock-on he had missed in the build-up.
Hodgson reduced the deficit to two points and although he missed another penalty attempt, the home team took the lead again in the closing stages.
A relentless spell of pressure from the leaders was finally rewarded when Kruis somehow found his way to the line out wide, Hodgson converting from the touchline before adding his fourth penalty.