Aviva Premiership: Charlie Hodgson boots Saracens past Sale
Last Updated: 14/02/14 10:37pm
Charlie Hodgson: Saracens fly-half landed four of his five penalties in the second half
Charlie Hodgson kicked all of Saracens' points as they secured a 15-10 triumph over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Hodgson's penalty gave Sarries an early 3-0 lead but Danny Cipriani's three-pointer and Marc Jones' try saw Sale go into the interval 10-3 ahead.
The Sharks failed to sustain the pressure in the second half as the 2011 champions dominated the remainder of the game and their stand-off added four further penalties.
Mark McCall's men were looking to respond to their shock 22-13 defeat to London Irish last weekend - the team's only regular season loss at Allianz Park.
They welcomed back Brad Barritt, Mako Vunipola and Alex Goode from England duty to boost the squad, but it was Sale who started the brighter as good hands from Johnny Leota and Rob Miller sent Mark Cueto away on the right-hand side.
However, impressive defence from the visitors earned a penalty and allowed them to set up their first attack of the game.
Hooker Jamie George showed excellent dexterity to put a kick in behind the hosts' back three and, after the Sharks had again infringed, Hodgson converted the resulting opportunity to take Sarries in front.
Although Cipriani levelled matters following a mistake from Vunipola, the London-based outfit were in control of the match and should have scored when their stand-off's wonderful pass found Duncan Taylor in space.
With the line at his the mercy, the centre's attempt at an off-load to Chris Ashton missed his intended target and Sale managed to clear.
Despite the next 15 minutes proceeding to take place between the 22s, both teams had moments of inspiration as Tom Brady and Goode made surging runs.
The deadlock was eventually broken when another mistake from the visitors allowed the home side to build pressure and a powerful driving maul ended in Jones going over. Cipriani added the conversion as the Sharks went into the break 10-3 in front.
Saracens opened the second period impressively with Vunipola particularly prominent with ball in hand, but an excellent tackle by Brady prevented Taylor from touching down.
McCall's team continued to test the Sale rearguard and it paid off when Hodgson kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit.
Sarries' heavy duty pack had struggled to get a grip of their feisty northern opponents but, with the introduction of their strong bench, they began to assert control.
Another successful three-point chance from their pivot took them to within one before a high James Gaskell tackle allowed the former England international to edge them ahead.
The weather was also playing its part with the Sharks finding it difficult to exit their half due to the strong wind.
Gaskell did briefly threaten when a well-weighted Henry Thomas' pass saw the back-rower break visitors' gain-line.
Nick Macleod then had the chance to take Sale ahead late on, but his effort missed the target and Hodgson rubber-stamped victory with a fifth from the tee.
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 Round 14
London Irish scrum-half Tomas O'Leary has been banned for three weeks following his red card against Wasps.
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill said his side "played poorly" as they scraped a home win over struggling Gloucester.
Leicester were forced to come from behind to snatch a hard-fought 11-8 Premiership win over Gloucester at Welford Road.
- Ford praises Bath youngsters
- Mallinder upbeat after win
- O'Leary faces 'stamp' ban
- Richards hurt by Quins loss
- Northampton return to summit
- Irish win upset by O'Leary red
- Ford runs hot in Bath win
- Harlequins edge out Newcastle
- McCall: Stars showed class
- Leicester v Gloucester: Teams
- Wasps v Irish: Teams
- Exeter v Bath: Teams
- Northampton v Worcester: Teams
- Harlequins v Newcastle: Teams
- Sale v Saracens: Teams