Rugby Union: Saracens off the scent

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SARACENS' HOPES of taking the Allied Dunbar Premiership One title received a terminal blow yesterday when they slithered to an unexpected 32-24 defeat at Sale.

After racing into an early lead, Francois Pienaar's men took their foot off the accelerator and were ultimately outfoxed by the Wales full-back Shane Howarth, who kicked 17 points. Jos Baxendell and Chris Yates went over for Sale while the England flanker Richard Hill and Alain Penaud, who also landed a drop goal, replied in kind for the visitors before the Fijian lock Simon Raiwalui produced the decisive try in the dying minutes.

Luke Nabaro, the Hong Kong international wing, made a sensational league debut for Bristol as they improved their points-difference lead in Premiership Two over Worcester and Rotherham with a 50-17 home win over the bottom club Blackheath.

Nabaro, who signed for the club a fortnight ago, ran in five of Bristol's eight tries, but their rivals also won. Worcester beat visitors Waterloo 41-15 with Nick Baxter supplying two of their six touchdowns and Rotherham enjoyed a 28-8 home success over fourth-placed London Welsh. Ben Wade, Rotherham's No 8, and Andy Currier, the Exiles' former Great Britain rugby league centre, each raised his tally of tries for the season to 13.

Manchester maintained their slender lead at the top of Jewson National League One with a 28-22 victory at Camberley. Their only title rivals, Henley, stayed a point behind but with a game in hand after seeing off their visitors, Wharfedale, 30-0.

Llanelli stretched their lead at the top of the Welsh Premier Division with a 32-17 win at Bridgend, but, worryingly for Wales, Scott Quinnell limped off in the second half. Ebbw Vale clung on to second position by holding off Neath, whose forward Mike Turner was sent off for stamping, 25-24. Third-placed Pontypridd inflicted a 31-16 defeat on Newport with two tries by Kevin Morgan and 21 points from Neil Jenkins while Richard Wintle claimed two first-half tries for Caerphilly en route to their 27- 24 victory at the bottom club Aberavon.

Heriot's FP look certain to take their first Scottish Tennent's Velvet Premiership title in 20 years after a 42-13 eclipse of Boroughmuir. They now lead Melrose, who ended Glasgow Hawks' title interest 32-15 yesterday, by five points with only one game remaining.