European Champions Cup: Sale 15-19 Saracens
|Sale (10) 15|
|Try: Lund, Ostrikov, Con: Cipriani Pen: Cipriani|
|Saracens (11) 19|
|Tries: Farrell, B Vunipola Pens: Hodgson, Farrell Drop-goal: Farrell|
Sale's hopes of progressing in the European Champions Cup ended as they were beaten at home by Saracens.
Magnus Lund put the hosts ahead after a driving maul, before Saracens responded through an Owen Farrell try after a run from ex-Sale man Charlie Hodgson.
The visitors, Heineken Cup runners-up last term, moved six points in front with Billy Vunipola's second-half try.
Sale's Andrei Ostrikov crossed after Sam Tuitupou's surge, but Farrell's drop-goal sealed Saracens' victory.
Danny Cipriani kicked both of his penalties, but it was not enough for the Sharks against well-organised opponents who had to defend well to hold on to their lead.
It was a vital victory for Mark McCall's side after losing 14-3 to Munster in the last round of European games and they now have nine points from their three matches.
Nevertheless, they will be confident of advancing into the knockout phase and welcome Sale to Allianz Park next Saturday.
|Did you know?|
|This was the first meeting between the two clubs in European competition.|
After going behind to Hodgson's fourth-minute penalty, Sale scored the first try of the game after a superb driving maul led to captain Lund flopping over the line.
But Hodgson, who spent 11 years with Sale and helped them win the Premiership title in 2006, produced a superb jinking run after a lineout to beat four home players before offloading for Farrell to score.
In a free-flowing and entertaining game, a long-range Cipriani penalty gave the hosts a narrow lead.
Both Cipriani and Farrell, two players contesting for the number 10 shirt in the England team, were at the heart of both side's best attacking moves in the first half.
Farrell had started at inside centre, but a first-half injury to Hodgson saw him move to fly-half, in direct competition with Cipriani.
And, within a minute, Farrell restored the visitors lead with a successful penalty as Saracens went into the break with an 11-10 lead.
Sale had won their last three Premiership matches but fell six points behind early in the second half when Saracens' Billy Vunipola scored after a maul.
Fine build-up play from Tuitupou and Mark Cueto led to Ostrikov reducing the deficit to a point, but Sharks replacement Nick MacLeod missed the conversion and the chance to put his side ahead.
The last score of the game came from the boot of Hodgson with a drop-goal, before some frantic and resolute Saracens defending saw them hold on.
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "Owen Farrell's a brilliant young player. He comes back to the club and he understands that he's not played much rugby this year. With Charlie Hodgson off injured, it was wonderful to have someone of Owen's calibre to see us home.
"We know how difficult this place is to come and we've got to do the business against them again next week.
"Our defence in the last 20 minutes was pretty heroic. Sale had a lot of energy throughout and there were times where we could have felt sorry for ourselves and we didn't."
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond said: "We could have won in the last five minutes and we probably lacked a bit of composure.
"We were hammering at their line, getting penalty after penalty and probably in the Premiership they would have got a yellow card, but it wasn't to be.
"It's difficult to be pleased with a performance like that in the 'Group of Death' as it's called.
"We can put up a good show but being close isn't good enough and we should have won the game."
Sale: M Haley, L McLean, M Jennings, S Tuitupou, M Cueto, D Cipriani, C Cusiter; E Lewis-Roberts, M Jones, V Cobilas, J Mills, A Ostrikov, M Easter, M Lund, J Beaumont.
Replacements: S Mamukashvili for Jones (70), R Harrison for Roberts (59), V Fihaki for Mills (61), W Cliff for Cusiter (42), N MacLeod for Cipriani (58), W Addison (for McLean 72).
Saracens: A Goode, C Ashton, D Taylor, O Farrell, D Strettle, C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth; M Vunipola, J George, P Du Plessis, G Kruis, A Hargreaves, K Brown, J Burger, B Vunipola.
Replacements: R Barrington for M Vunipola (68), J Johnston for Du Plessis (57), J Hamilton for Hargreaves (64), J Wray for Burger (68), N de Kock for Johnston (77), C Wyles (for Wigglesworth 57).
Referee: Leighton Hodges