Charlie Hodgson kicked all Saracens’ points as they secured a narrow win 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 gave Sale a 10-3 lead at the interval. The Sharks could not sustain the pressure in the second period as the visitors dominated and their stand-off added four further penalties.
Mark McCall’s men were looking to respond to their loss to London Irish last week and welcomed back Brad Barritt, Mako Vunipola and Alex Goode from England duty. They were first on the scoresheet too as Jamie George put a kick in behind the hosts’ back three and, after the Sharks infringed, Hodgson converted the penalty.
Cipriani levelled following a mistake from Vunipola, and Sale forged ahead when a mistake from the visitors allowed Sale to build pressure and a driving maul ended in Jones going over. Cipriani added the conversion.
Saracens opened the second period impressively and it paid off when Hodgson kicked a penalty to reduce the deficit.
With the introduction of Sarries’ strong bench, they began to assert control. Another kick from their pivot took them to within one point before a high James Gaskell tackle allowed Hodgson to edge them ahead.
Nick Macleod had a chance to take Sale ahead late on, but his effort missed the target and Hodgson sealed victory with a fifth from the tee.
Sale: Miller; Brady, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Peel; Lewis-Roberts, Jones, Cobilas, Ostrikov, Paterson, Braid, Seymour, Gaskell. Replacements: Taylor, Harrison, Thomas, J Mills, Easter, Cliff, MacLeod, Arscott.
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Taylor, Barritt, Strettle; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, George, Stevens, Borthwick, Kruis, Brown, Burger, Wray. Replacements: Brits, Barrington, Johnston, Botha, Joubert, de Kock, Tomkins, Wyles.
Referee: G Garner (RFU)