Premiership: Saracens 31-25 Sale Sharks
|Saracens (21) 31|
|Tries: Rhodes, Lewington, Tompkins, Kpoku Cons: Spencer 4 Pen: Spencer|
|Sale (13) 25|
|Try: McGuigan Con: Du Preez Pens: Du Preez 6|
Saracens needed a late try to beat Sale Sharks, as they continued their 100% start to the Premiership season and moved back to the top of the table.
Converted tries from Mike Rhodes, Alex Lewington and Nick Tompkins put Sarries 21-6 up before Byron McGuigan replied.
Rob du Preez then kicked four penalties to put the Sharks four points ahead.
But Joel Kpoku's score edged Sarries back in front and, after Du Preez missed a kick to level the scores, Ben Spencer's penalty settled the match.
Despite being shorn of several regular starters because of international commitments and injury - which prompted winger Chris Wyles to come out of retirement - Saracens seized control of the match during a five-minute period in the first half despite being down to 14 men.
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Will Skelton was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle but, after South Africa international Du Preez's second penalty of the day had made it 7-6, Tompkins offloaded to allow Lewington to touch down in the corner and the centre then picked up Wyles' grubber kick to cross himself.
Sale, buoyed by McGuigan's score just before the break, dominated the majority of the second half to fight back and, with the north Londoners doggedly defending their try-line, scored 12 unanswered points through the boot of debutant Du Preez.
But Saracens managed to relieve the pressure and replacement lock Kpoku crossed with six minutes remaining following a driving maul from a line-out in the corner.
Sale had a chance to draw level three minutes later from another penalty but Du Preez missed a tough kick from wide on the left, meaning the visitors had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Victory for Saracens extends their unbeaten run to 18 matches in all competitions and Mark McCall's side are now five points clear of Exeter Chiefs, who travel to Bristol Bears on Sunday (15:00 GMT).
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall:
"We're really chuffed with the character the team showed.
"We had a real mix of experienced players who have not played much and younger players who have not played at all.
"Everyone knows how many people aren't here on international duty or injured. For us to produce what we produced and get five points is amazing.
"Having been under huge pressure for the whole of the second-half, we had one chance five metres out and we took it."
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond:
"I thought we could climb back into it, and we did effectively. We had to work for all our points whereas we gave two tries away.
"I think we probably deserved a bit more than a point but that's the way it goes - there's no point whinging about it.
"We have got to work on how not to give sides like Saracens so many points in the first half, and we will start winning these games."
Saracens: Goode; Wyles, Tompkins, Barritt (capt), Lewington; Malins, Spencer; Barrington, Woolstencroft, Judge, Day, Skelton, Rhodes, Burger, Wray.
Replacements: Gray, Thompson-Stringer, Sasag, Kpoku, Clark, Earl, Whiteley, Bosch.
Sin bin: Skelton (24).
Sale: S James; Solomona, O'Connor, Leota, McGuigan; Du Preez; De Klerk; Harrison, Webber, John, Evans, Phillips, Ross (capt), Curry, Beaumont.
Replacements: Langdon, Bristow, Jones, Ostrikov, Neild, Cliff, L James, Reed.
Referee: Andrew Jackson.