Saracens leave it late to get the better of Sale

Ben Spencer scored 14 points from the tee for Saracens against Sale (pic: Paul Harding/PA)

Ben Spencer scored 14 points from the tee for Saracens against Sale (pic: Paul Harding/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Gallagher Premiership: Saracens 31 Sale Sharks 25

Joel Kpoku’s late try maintained Saracens’ unbeaten start to the Gallagher Premiership season as they battled past Sale 31-25 at Allianz Park.

The champions trailed by four points when the flanker came off the bench to score, breaking Sale’s hearts and securing a seventh league win of the season for Mark McCall’s men.

Twenty points from South African fly-half Rob du Preez were not enough for the visitors, while Byron McGuigan scored their only try of the match.

Michael Rhodes, Alex Lewington and Nick Tompkins all crossed for Saracens, while Kpoku’s score brought up the bonus point.

Du Preez nudged Sharks ahead with a penalty early on before Saracens’ scrum-half Ben Spencer sent his chance to even it up just wide.

However, McGuigan made what would prove to be a costly error after failing to gather a kick in gusty conditions. He touched down behind his own try line and from the five-metre scrum Rhodes burrowed over on the second phase after 19 minutes, Spencer added the conversion to make it 7-3.

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There was some redemption for Sharks just minutes later after Will Skelton hit Du Preez late and was sin-binned, while Du Preez kicked the resulting penalty to make it 7-6.

But Mark McCall’s men continued to pile the pressure on the visitors despite being a man short and Tompkins released a back of the hand pass to send Lewington over in the corner, Spencer again converting.

Tompkins added a third try just minutes later, latching on to a kick through from returning winger Chris Wyles - back in a Saracens jersey despite retiring in May.

Spencer’s conversion meant the home side added 14 points while down to 14 men but Sale got a try back just before the break, as South Africans Faf de Klerk and du Preez combined to release McGuigan out wide to score.

Du Preez took his tally to eight points with the conversion, making it 21-13 at the break.

Another penalty from Du Preez after 55 minutes closed the gap to five points and the South African fly-half added two more penalties in the next ten minutes to nudge Sale ahead 22-21.

A further penalty helped the visitors turn the screw, with the score 25-21 but Saracens roared back and retook the lead, with youngster Kpoku scoring from a driven line-out which went through the phases.

Spencer added the extras to make it 28-25 before du Preez pulled one wide towards the end in an effort to even the scores.

Spencer added another penalty at the end to make it 31-25.