LV= Cup: Sale Sharks to face Harlequins in final after beating Saracens
Last Updated: 10/03/13 8:37pm
Sale Sharks extinguished Saracens' hopes of a treble after upsetting the Aviva Premiership leaders 21-15 in the semi-finals of the LV= Cup at the Salford City Stadium.
The Sharks might be struggling in league action this season, but tries either side of half time from Tom Holmes and Nathan Fowles clinched the remarkable victory.
Ben Spencer kicked all 15 points for Saracens who can now concentrate on the Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup, while Sale will face Harlequins in next Sunday's final at Sixways Stadium.
The home side started the brighter and their pressure was eventually rewarded after four minutes when the visitors infringed at the breakdown and Danny Cipriani kicked the penalty.
The lead was short-lived as indiscipline from the restart offered up a simple chance for Spencer to level, which he duly took.
With the wind against them the Sharks were being pinned back in their own half and successive penalties from scrum-half Spencer took Saracens into a 9-3 lead. The respective kickers then traded penalties.
However, they failed to make their dominance tell on the scoreboard as a solid Sale rearguard kept the visitors from crossing the whitewash, and the hosts profited when one of their few excursions into the opposition 22 resulted in a try.
It stemmed from a poor throw at the lineout by hooker Tommy Taylor, but the ball fell kindly for Holmes and he powered his way over.
Spurred on by that touchdown just before the break, the home side did most of the running in the early second-half exchanges. Andy Powell - impressive throughout - and Charlie Ingall both made bursts but mistakes at crucial moments prevented them from building on a positive opening.
With 20 minutes to go Saracens decided to send on the cavalry with former England internationals Matt Stevens and Charlie Hodgson coming on to the field.
Almost immediately they earned a penalty in front of the posts which Spencer kicked to extend the lead to 15-11.
But the Sharks hit back when, after numerous phases, James Gaskell's offload found Fowles and the replacement half-back touched down. Cipriani added the conversion and then a late three-pointer to seal the win.
LV= Cup semi-finals
Steve Diamond said Premiership survival was the main target for Sale despite reaching the final of the LV= Cup.
Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea will not recall his experienced players for next Sunday's LV= Cup final.
Sale will start Danny Cipriani at fly-half for the LV= Cup semi-final clash with Saracens at Welford Road on Sunday.