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Saracens’ treble dreams end with semi-final defeat at Sale
Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Ernst Joubert breaks clear for Sarries
SARACENS’ hopes of becoming the first team ever to win all three major trophies in the same season came to an end on Sunday when they were beaten 21-15 at Sale in the semi-finals of the LV= Cup.
The visitors chose to largely keep faith with the players who had got them through to the knockout stages of the competition as they fielded virtually a second-string team for the match.
For much of the encounter it looked as if this would be enough to see off a full strength Sale side as Sarries, who had the advantage of a strong wind in their favour in the first half, opened up a 12-11 lead at the interval courtesy of four Ben Spencer penalties.
The Aviva Premiership leaders and Heineken Cup quarter-finals went on to dominate much of the second period, and a further Spencer penalty saw them extend their advantage just after the hour but, unlike in recent weeks, they were unable to turn their pressure into tries and were made to pay as Sale grabbed ten unanswered points in the final 13 minutes to secure victory.
“These guys that started got us into the semi-finals, and this was their reward for that achievement,” said forwards coach Paul Gustard. “I think it’s only right that they started the game.
“We didn’t play well in the first half. We didn’t take advantage of the wind, so we put ourselves on the back foot because we didn’t get the lead that we should have.
“We actually played very well in the second half. I don’t think that it was until the last 15 minutes that Sale got into our 22.
“We controlled the game pretty well in the second half and obviously had a strong bench that added to us, but unfortunately we made two or three mistakes and showed a bit of ill-discipline and then they scored a try.”
The hosts made a blistering start to the match and almost scored a try within the first two minutes when a concerted attack ended with them knocking on close to the line, but they were eventually rewarded for their early enterprise as Danny Cipriani slotted over a simple penalty from in front of the posts on four minutes.
However, Sale infringed from the resulting kick-off and Spencer made them pay by levelling the scores almost immediately.
With Saracens taking full advantage of the strong wind at their backs to dominate territorially, two further penalties from Spencer enabled them to move 9-3 ahead after 14 minutes.
Cipriani responded with a second penalty for Sale on 17 minutes, but this was cancelled out by a long-range effort from Spencer eight minutes later as Sarries continued to enjoy the better of the play.
But the visitors suffered a setback four minutes before the interval as Sale scored a bizarre try.
Hooker Tommy Taylor made a complete mess of a throw from a line-out on the Sarries 22, but the ball bounced perfectly into the hands of lock Tom Holmes, and he was able to race clear untouched to score out wide. Cipriani missed the difficult conversion.
Although the hosts had the wind in their favour in the second period, Saracens upped their game considerably and enjoyed almost complete dominance of territory and possession for more than 20 minutes.
One fine break from Ernst Joubert ten minutes after the restart led to a penalty which Spencer missed, but Sarries were unable to make the most of several good attacking positions – despite bolstering their side by bringing on the likes of Charlie Hodgson and Matt Stevens.
Having offered no attacking threat at all in the second period, Sale suddenly came to life and were awarded a penalty in a good position on 64 minutes which they kicked into the corner.
The hosts then opted for a scrum when they won another penalty deep in the 22 soon after, and the decision paid off as they swept the ball out wide and Nathan Fowles forced his way over the line in the corner after good work from James Gaskell.
Cipriani added the touchline conversion, and then slotted over another penalty with three minutes remaining as Sarries’ challenge petered out.
Saracens’ next match is at home to Harlequins in the Premiership on March 31.
Sale: Healy, Brady (Addison 69), Leota, Macleod, Ingall, Cipriani, Willis (Fowles 47), Harrison (Dickinson 50), Taylor (Jones 53), Thomas (Buckley 53), McKenzie, Holmes (Ostrikov 53), Gaskell, Seymour, Andy Powell.
Saracens: Auterac (Saunders 68), George (Brits 69), du Plessis (Stevens 60), Kruis, Botha (Hargreaves 55), Melck (Saull 55), Fenton-Wells, Joubert, Spencer (de Kock 68), Mordt (Hodgson 61), Maddock (Wilson 51), Adam Powell, Wyles, Short, Ransom.
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