Sharks reclaim home supremacy
By Ben Blackmore. Last Updated: 22/09/06 9:34pm
Guinness Premiership, Edgeley Park, Friday September 22, 7.45pm
Sale Sharks edged a well-contested clash 34-26 against Saracens, taking themselves to within a point of Wasps at the top of the Premiership table.
Sarries are the last team to beat the Sharks at Edgeley Park, triumphing 15-9 back in March, but this time it was the Stockport-based club who found the greater cutting edge.
Sale appeared to be cruising as Mark Cueto's second half try made the score 26-9, but Sarries fought back to within five points before the hosts put the game to bed.
Tries from Cueto, Mark Taylor and Juan Fernandez Lobbe clinched the points for Philippe Saint-Andre's men, but question marks remain over their defending.
Rodd Penney, Ben Johnston and Glen Jackson all found their way to the champions' whitewash in a strong second half showing, and Sarries will be disappointed to leave Edgeley Park empty-handed.
The highly-anticipated reunion of rugby league greats Jason Robinson and Andy Farrell never materialised as the latter remained on the bench, leaving Cueto to steal the show.
A war of the fly-halves developed in the opening 35 minutes, as Jackson and Charlie Hodgson matched each other kick for kick for a 9-9 scoreline.
Then came Cueto's first telling impact as he scythed through the visitors' rearguard, squaring up full-back Dan Scarbrough before releasing Taylor to coast over.
That gave the Sharks a 10-point advantage at the break, and they quickly extended their supremacy at the start of the second period.
Aided by the departure of Simon Raiwalui and Matt Cairns to the sin-bin, Cueto provided the spare man at the end of a sweeping right-to-left move for the game's second try.
Sarries were struggling on the back foot, conceding far too many penalties, so they decided attack was the best form of defence as Penney led a fightback.
Both he and Johnston breezed past some limp Sale defending for 26-21, sparking groans of anxiety from the home support.
Any nerves were soon distinguished though, Fernandez Lobbe settling into the 'Chabal role' well at number eight- crashing over for the clinching score.
Half-back Richard Wigglesworth saw yellow late on to allow Jackson to haul his side to within five points once again, but a Hodgson penalty ensured Sale took four points while Saracens left with nothing.