Eddie Jones could not have asked for a sweeter start to his short-term reign at Saracens as the Guinness Premiership strugglers scraped to a hard-fought victory over leaders Sale.
The former Australia boss has been recruited by Sarries in a “consultancy capacity” for three months in a bid to save the club from the drop and he saw his new charges battle to the end to secure their first win in nine games.
In the end, tries either side of the break by Ben Johnston and Glen Jackson were the difference between the two sides, with Sale managing only three penalties by Valentin Courrent in reply.
The Sharks, who failed to score in the second half, have now lost their last two league games and their proud unbeaten home record in the league has disappeared although they still lead the Guinness Premiership thanks to Wasps’ defeat by Worcester. Sharks winger Chris Mayor and his team-mate Courrent provided highlights of the barren opening exchanges that were played out in a congested midfield.
Saracens had been on the back foot for most of that spell but they found themselves in front against the run of play in the 16th minute.
Centre Johnston ran on to a delayed pass to rip through some poor tackling on the left wing and dive over in the corner, with Jackson converting.
Sale continued to enjoy the majority of the possession but, Jason Robinson aside, they lacked the creative spark to penetrate a solid visitors’ defence instead relying on the boot of Courrent. The Frenchman, who had earlier missed a
fourth-minute penalty, reduced the deficit to 7-3 with a three-pointer eight minutes before the break.
He added his second three minutes later after Saracens were penalised as their scrum struggled to cope with a powerful Sale surge against the head.
And Courrent nailed his third within the space of seven minutes to give his side a 9-7 half-time lead.
Prop Ben Coutts almost barged over from close range for Sale at the start of the second half but Saracens withstood that barrage and went down the other end to retake the lead.
A series of pummelling charges among the forwards created the space and Jackson was fed by scrum-half Kyran Bracken to beat Sililo Martens and go over from close range in the right corner.
Jackson extended his side’s lead with a penalty in the 58th minute as the subdued Sharks became bogged down in their own half.
Saracens suffered a blow in the 65th minute when prop Cobus Visagie was sent to the sin-bin for illegally preventing quick ball.
But they came close to building on their lead when Jackson hit the post with a long-range penalty with 10 minutes remaining.
Sale applied plenty of pressure in the final few minutes but an unstinting work ethic in defence saw Sarries home.