Saracens defy injuries to hold off Sale and win Premiership title
Saracens defied a spirited Sale, mini injury crisis and climate activists to clinch the Gallagher Premiership title for a sixth time at Twickenham.
A 35-25 victory over the Sharks made amends for last season’s last-gasp defeat by Leicester at the same stage and delivers their first silverware since being relegated for salary cap breaches in 2020.
Two Just Stop Oil protestors brought a halt to the game in the first half when they ran on to the pitch, letting off orange smoke bombs before being led away by stewards amid jeers from the crowd.
Both were arrested and while orange patches were still evident on the pitch at the final whistle, the interruption failed to take the shine off an enthralling climax to the season.
Saracens threatened to pull clear before and after half-time but Sale stayed in the fight and then pounced in a dominant third quarter that saw tries by Tom Roebuck and Bevan Rodd seize the lead.
But drawing on all the experience accumulated during 13 years of Premiership and European finals, Saracens showed their resolve to hit back through Elliot Daly and Ivan van Zyl.
Daly’s 67th-minute try, born out of Joe Carpenter’s charged-down kick, will make painful viewing for Sale as the moment when the lead and momentum of the game swung dramatically.
The blazing sunshine sapped the players’ energy and Saracens had to deal with the additional early challenge of losing a second England front-rower after Jamie George’s afternoon was ended by a possible concussion sustained during a tackle by Tom Curry.
Shortly before kick-off prop Mako Vunipola was withdrawn from the bench through injury yet for all the disruption, the score was tied at 6-6 heading into the second quarter.
Farrell had shaded the early phase of his duel with Ford but Manu Tuilagi’s forceful runs through Saracens’ midfield marked him out as the most dangerous player on the field.
The arrival of the two protestors ignited an eventful spell as after they were dealt with by stewards, play resumed with last year’s runners-up taking the lead through a penalty try.
Alex Goode threaded a bobbling kick down the right touchline and with Max Malins about to grab the ball and fall over, he was tackled by Curry to deny a certain try. Curry was sin-binned to compound matters.
Wing Sean Maitland was the latest Saracen to depart injured and the frantic pace continued with Sale’s Akker van der Merwe crossing from close range before Malins touched down after Farrell had drawn an attempted big hit from Tuilagi.
The first half finished with the London club launching a series of high-tempo raids and Sale needed to score soon to stop them marauding out of sight.
The try came in the 45th minute when a defensive error by Daly allowed Tom Roebuck over and moments later Daly saw what should have been a routine score disallowed for a foot in touch.
Farrell kicked a penalty but Sale were over again through a move started when Tuilagi careered through the midfield and that ended with Rodd appearing at scrum-half to pounce from short range.
The Sharks were dominating but when a clearance was charged down Saracens reacted in a flash, winning the ball and feeding it wide where Daly was waiting to score.
And the turnaround was completed when a training ground move sent Malins into space for Van Zyl to finish, with the TMO confirming the match-settling score.
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