Farrell steers Saracens past Sale
January 6, 2013
Farrell steers Saracens past Sale%]
Saracens heaped further woe on basement side Sale Sharks with a 32-12 victory in their Aviva Premiership clash at Vicarage Road on Sunday.
Owen Farrell showed perfect timing to demonstrate his worth to Stuart Lancaster ahead of the England coach naming his Six Nations squad on Wednesday with a 22-point haul. In the last-ever Aviva Premiership match to be played at Vicarage Road, Farrell hammered over eight kicks from eight attempts while David Strettle and Charlie Hodgson collected second-half tries to help Saracens to a comfortable win.
The defeat leaves Sale five points behind London Irish at the foot of the table and they only had four Danny Cipriani penalties to show for their efforts. Their defence on the whole was solid, but the same could not be said of their discipline and their attacks were easily blunted by the hosts.
However, they started the game on the front foot and led within five minutes thanks to a Cipriani penalty. Just after the restart, the fly-half got lucky when his kick from inside the 22 was charged down by George Kruis only for the ball to bounce over the dead ball line. But Cipriani soon doubled the Sharks' lead when he belted over a terrific penalty from just inside his own half, although Saracens were to halve the deficit through Farrell.
Saracens' Steve Borthwick looks for support during his side's victory at Vicarage Road © PA Photos
Five minutes later, Farrell brought the score level with another penalty, left-of-centre on the 22-metre line, after James Gaskell was penalised for not rolling away. It was all Saracens at that point and they soon led for the first time with Farrell again deadly from the kicking tee, making a shot from 40 metres. The England man then repeated the trick just a couple of minutes later to extend the gap to six points, with Sale's discipline letting them down badly.
They were to gift Farrell another shot at goal in the 28th minute, one which he did not pass up and despite not threatening the Sale tryline, Saracens found themselves 15-6 ahead. It was to remain that way until half-time with both sides struggling to get out of the middle third of the pitch.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Cipriani brought his team back within six points with a penalty made all the more kickable thanks to some Saracens backchat. But within two minutes, those points were rendered meaningless with Farrell again making it look easy with his sixth penalty, taken from just inside the Sale half.
A rare moment of attacking promise for either side just before the hour-mark then came to nothing when Sale's Kearnan Myall failed to find any support to his left just outside the Saracens 22. But Cipriani was to boot the visitors back within touching distance with an excellent, and somewhat fortuitous, strike from the halfway line which hit both posts before dropping over.
However, Saracens took a huge step towards victory in the 63rd minute - just after bringing on former Shark Hodgson. A strong scrum led to Richard Wigglesworth passing to Hodgson, who with his first touch gave a quick pass to allow Strettle to sprint in under the posts, giving Farrell an easy conversion.
The result was made safe with 10 minutes left and it was roles reversed from the first try as Strettle's deft grubber was simple for Hodgson to pick up and score. Farrell kicked the extras again and the gap was up to 20 points, meaning that Sale were going to go back up to Salford with nothing to show for their efforts.
Following the game, Saracens boss Mark McCall shrugged off concerns about their ability to turn pressure into tries. "We'd like to be scoring more tries and we've done that in certain games in Europe but we were dominant in the first half as well here and that is a good sign.
"We just couldn't go more than three phases without Sale giving a penalty away - that's not our fault - and Owen [Farrell] quite rightly kicked all the penalties to build a good lead so I am not too worried about the tries."
Reflecting on his side's latest reverse, Sale boss Steve Diamond said: "We've just got to stick to what we do in the league and hopefully our endeavour will show. We proved last week against Worcester that we can be competitive right the way through but when you come up against a top four side like this, if you're off your metal in the last 15 minutes they'll make you pay."
Sale's Tony Buckley looks to force an opening in the Saracens defence © PA Photos
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Firdose Moonda talks to Rob Louw about the difficulties of being a South African touring New Zealand at the height of Apartheid
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games