Saracens score two second-half tries in a comfortable 32-12 win over Sale Sharks in the Aviva Premiership
It must be the rubber-crumb effect.
Just four days after Saracens trained for the very first time on their new, faster, more free-flowing rubber-crumb pitch at Allianz Park the Men in Black scored two tries in a league match for the first time since the opening day of the season as they overcame Sale Sharks 32-12 at Vicarage Road.
Sarries have one more game to endure in Watford before they up and leave for Barnet but this was their last ever league match in front of the yellow seats and while they might have more atmospheric afternoons at their new home in Copthall they may not have many more comfortable.
But for two brief periods at the start of each half, Sale’s insipid display allowed Saracens to stroll through a match that never looked like ending in anything other than a routine home victory.
Owen Farrell, preferred at fly-half to the rested Charlie Hodgson, kicked six penalties and two conversions while second-half tries from David Strettle and Hodgson, who came on after the hour, wrapped up the win.
Saracens started slowly, gifting Danny Cipriani two opportunities from the tee which the Sale fly-half converted with aplomb to give the visitors an early 6-0 lead.
But after a clumsy opening ten minutes the hosts began to find their feet and in particular, the right boot of Farrell.
The warning signs were there as first Brad Barritt and then Joel Tomkins ghosted through the visitors’ leaky back line and as Sarries cranked up the pressure Sale were forced into regular infringement.
Farrell was the chief benefactor as the 21-year-old dispatched five penalties in 14 minutes to put Saracens 15-6 to the good at half time.
The visitors again started brightly after the break and Cipriani maintained his 100 per cent record from the tee with two successful efforts, but another Farrell kick in between kept the visitors at arms length with the score 18-12 on the hour mark.
Any inklings of a Sale resurgence though were wiped out as two Sarries tries in seven minutes put the result beyond doubt.
Hodgson came off the bench and the former Sharks man made an instant impact, offloading a typically incisive reverse pass to the impressive Strettle who ran 30 metres unopposed to score under the posts.
The same pair were involved again seven minutes later but this time it was Strettle who turned provider, poking through a delightful kick ten metres out for Hodgson to scoop up and go over for the second try of the game.
Farrell kicked his second conversion to take his personal points tally to 22 and the number ten rushed to collect the ball in the hope Saracens might be able to take home a bonus point with ten minutes to play.
Even for a rubber-crumb-invigorated Sarries, that proved overly-optimistic but another convincing display sees the Men in Black return to second in the Aviva Premiership, two points behind Harlequins and eight clear of fifth placed Northampton Saints.
It’s a healthy position for McCall’s side who now turn their attentions to two crucial Heineken Cup matches against Racing Metro and Edinburgh, starting with the trip to the French side next Saturday.
Saracens: 15 Chris Wyles, 14 James Short, 13 Joel Tomkins, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Schalk Brits, 3 Matt Stevens, 4 Steve Borthwick (capt), 5 George Kruis, 6 Kelly Brown, 7 Will Fraser, 8 Ernst Joubert
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Petrus du Plessis, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Neil de Kock, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Duncan Taylor
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Marc Jones, 3 Tony Buckley, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Kearnan Myall, 6 James Gaskell, 7 Richie Vernon, 8 Andy Powell
Replacements: 16 Aston Croall, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 Daniel Braid, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Charlie Amesbury, 23 Cameron Shepherd
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth