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Sale go top with win over Saracens

17 Sep 2004
Sale go top with win over Saracens

With former Sale players in the Saracens side in Kevin Yates, Matt Cairns, Simon Raiwalui, Iain Fullarton and Nicky Little playing under the guidance of ex-Sharks coach Steve Diamond, it was always going to be an intense affair.

Both sides were unbeaten before kick-off and have both beaten last year's champions Wasps, but on the night neither looked like championship material.

After a fine start, Sharks were subdued and just about managed to hang on against a determined Saracens side.

Having scored two blistering tries in the opening five minutes, a bonus point looked certain for Sale but it was not to be as Saracens snuffed them out and pushed them all away.

The Londoners were caught on the hop when Sale winger Mark Cueto latched onto a precise diagonal kick from fly-half Charlie Hodgson to run clear and score after just 36 seconds following good work from fellow winger Steve Hanley.

Just minutes later the visitors had no answer when Sale charged up field, first through number eight Sebastien Chabal and then through scrum-half Sililo Martens, before Cueto went clear for his second try of the evening.

Sharks could have been further ahead but Hodgson failed with both conversion attempts.

Sarries' night got even worse when former Sale prop Yates was yellow-carded after a minor scuffle but despite being a man down the Saracens pack still managed to drive Sale back and stand-off Mark Bartholomeusz landed a drop goal to reduce the gap.

Hodgson restored the 10-point lead with a penalty at the other end but then it was the Sharks' turn to lose a man when centre Robert Todd was shown a yellow card.

With both sides back to 15 men Hodgson and Little, on for the injured Bartholomeusz, exchanged penalties and the half finished on a more even keel than it had started.

Saracens kept possession well after the break and their pressure paid off when Little slotted over another penalty.

Hodgson and Little then added a penalty each as both sides came up against some fairly stout defending.

But following the introduction of Sale stalwart Pete Anglesea the home side regrouped and Hodgson increased their lead with a well-struck drop goal.

But still Saracens came back and Little reduced the gap with his fourth penalty of the night as the game entered the final five minutes.

Hodgson went wide with another drop goal attempt and Sharks were let off the hook late on as Little fumbled a pass as Saracens attacked the Sale line.

As the game entered injury time Hodgson held his nerve to land a long-range penalty and put the game beyond reach.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:Tries: Cueto 2Pens: Hodgson 4Drop: Hodgson

For Saracens:

Pens: Little 4Drop: Bartholomeusz

Yellow cards: Yates (Saracens, 12), Todd (Sale Sharks, 23)

For more news, try out Sale Sharks v Saracens

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