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Saracens beat Sale in Premiership clash as Alex Sanderson loses homecoming

Alex Sanderson’s return to Saracens was a bittersweet one as his Sale Sharks fell 25-14 at the StoneX Stadium, where he spent 13 years as a coach before returning to his northern roots

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Premiership giants Saracens may have fond memories of Alex Sanderson’s time at the club, but there was little love lost between the two parties as Sale Sharks lost 25-14 at the StoneX Stadium on Sunday.

Vincent Koch’s first-half try and a brace of Alex Lozowski penalties put Sarries in a commanding lead, and any hope of a comeback appeared to be over after Byron McGuigan’s red card early in the second period.

Mark McCall’s side side turned the screw and crossed over again through Max Malins to move back to second in the Premiership, while Sale drop one place to 10th and are still yet to win back-to-back games this season.

Ben Curry and Raffi Quirke crossed over in a gritty second-half display from the Sharks, who will return north ruing missed opportunities from the first half.

Sanderson, 42, retired at Saracens before taking up a coaching role with the club in 2008, and he only left in January of this year after he was offered the director of rugby position at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Alex Sanderson’s Sale Sharks came undone at Saracens on Sunday
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David Rogers/Getty Images)

His men might have succeeded in making the match more competitive were it not for the stellar Sarries defence, which lived up to their title-worthy standards on home soil.

For all the praise McCall’s side rightly receive for their Premiership-leading attack, it was the hosts’ work without the ball in keeping Sale at bay that impressed most.

The likes of Tim Swinson, Nick Isiekwe, Maro Itoje and Ethan Lewis were particularly busy in the tackle count, helping to keep at bay a Sale side that boasted the majority of possession and running metres.

Lewis and Jamie George replaced Owen Farrell and England at hooker and fly-half for the hosts, respectively, the latter duo set to miss at least the rest of 2021 following injuries on England duty.

It was only a week ago that Koch faced off against the likes of Itoje and Malins as part of the South Africa team that lost 27-26 at Twickenham, but here he was the hero to those players.

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Vincent Koch scored the only first-half try at the StoneX Stadium
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Steven Paston/PA Wire)

Seventeen minutes were on the board when the Springboks prop grunted over from a sharp line-out manoeuvre, with Lozowski adding the extras from far out on the right.

Despite wearing the outside centre jersey on the day, Lozowski maintained the precision of a 10 as he sent over two more penalties to give his side a 13-0 lead at the break.

If Sale were struggling to break enemy lines, their plight was made all the more difficult after McGuigan was shown a straight red card for his tangle with Sarries centre Nick Tompkins after the restart.

Sanderson’s side had just come close to scoring their first points of the afternoon when a scuffle unfolded, and referee Thomas Foley adjudged McGuigan’s intimidation tactics as ‘two yellow offences in one’.

Player-of-the-match Billy Vunipola continued his own superb display with a break and offload to Sean Maitland for a second Saracens score, the Scotland winger touching down almost unopposed.

Billy Vunipola once again looked mightily impressive for Saracens
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David Rogers/Getty Images)

Despite the deficit in personnel, Ben Curry glided over for a swift Sale response off a ruck from all of two metres out, with Ben Earl caught napping in defence.

There were further twists to the tale as Goode put Malins in for a third Sarries try before new England team-mate Quirke replied in quick succession thanks to a brilliant break from substitute Rob du Preez.

Sale did more damage with 14 men on the field than they did with a fully stacked side, and the result could have gone in their favour had they made some of their chances in the opening 40 minutes count.

Mark McCall’s Saracens are back up to second in the Premiership
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David Rogers/Getty Images)

Such small margins are where Saracens have revelled in recent years, however, and the five-time champions made McGuigan’s dismissal count on a frosty day at the StoneX Stadium.

Following Harlequins’ 22-19 defeat at home to London Irish on Saturday, McCall’s title challengers have opened up some daylight in second but remain six points behind the leaders, Leicester Tigers.

They visit Newcastle Falcons next Saturday in what will be their last game before the Christmas break, while Sale enjoy a Round 10 bye and aren’t back in action until they travel to Newcastle Falcons on Boxing Day.

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