Saracens claim sixth title with 35-25 victory over Sale

Rugby Union - Premiership Play-Off Final - Saracens v Sale Sharks - Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain - May 27, 2023 Sale Sharks' Jean Luc du Preez in action with Saracens' Owen Farrell Action Images/Andrew Boyers

LONDON (Reuters) -Saracens won their sixth title and first in four years when they eventually overpowered a spirited Sale to triumph 35-25 in a superb English Premiership final at a sun-drenched Twickenham on Saturday.

Saracens, who finished top of the standings in the regular season, led 20-18 at halftime after a penalty try and one for Max Malins.

Sale, seeking a second title in their first appearance in the final since their sole triumph in 2006, hit back strongly with tries from Akker van der Merwe, Tom Roebuck and Bevan Rodd to edge ahead midway through the second half and threaten an upset.

Saracens, however, who lost to Leicester via a last-gasp drop goal in last year’s final, delivered the telling blow with quickfire scores by Elliot Daly and Ivan van Zyl late in the second half to open a lead that Sale were unable to close.

“This was not redemption. We have moved on from last year, but it gets brought up a lot,” said man of the match Owen Farrell. “It’s about getting the best out of ourselves as we felt that we closed up shop a bit in the final last year.

“When people come to a club like this, not many people want to leave. It feels like a family when you’ve been together as long as we have and you want to keep fighting for the group to make it a place where people want to stay and fight for 10 or 15 years.”

At 6-6 the game was held up when two protesters invaded the pitch and let off orange smoke bombs. After a brief delay, the action resumed and Saracens were awarded a penalty try when flanker Tom Curry tackled Malins off the ball.

Curry was sin-binned but while he was off Sale surged back to level through Van der Merwe.

Saracens, though, were looking full of energy and invention, as they have all season, and Malins put them 20-13 ahead at the break after a great combination between the hugely impressive Farrell and Alex Goode – who claimed a remarkable sixth title in his ninth final.

The lead was cut to two early in the second half when Roebuck caught Daly napping as he tried to scoop up a bouncing ball. Farrell, though, landed a penalty soon after to stretch it to 23-18.

Sale refused to back down, surging back immediately as Manu Tuilagi smashed a huge hole to replacement prop Rodd to go through and as Ford converted, they were ahead for the first time.

With the sun beating down on the hottest day of the year, players started to wilt and some of the sharpness dropped, epitomised when Sale fullback Joe Carpenter was charged down, paving the way for Daly to score and edge Sarries back ahead.

The London side then came again as scrumhalf Van Zyl squeezed over, this time Farrell converting for a 10 point lead that broke the back of the Sale challenge.

It was a disappointing finale for Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson, who spent most of his coaching career at Saracens before returning to lift the fortunes of the Manchester club where he started.

“We are a team that’s growing but we lost to a very, very good team today,” he said. “That shows how far we’ve come, but I’m unbelievably gutted.

“There were a few balls lost in crucial areas that were probably a 14-point swing, a couple of pivotal moments.

“To stay where you are you have to get 10 percent better each year and we need to do that. We need to be a bit sharper, think a bit quicker and be quicker in transition and that’s where they pipped us today.

“But our side is young, I still feel like we are growing and I’ve loved the ride. Some real highs and some real lows and this is one of them.”

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