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Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Sunday, 2 January 2011

Sale 28-22 Saracens

Sale (28) 28
Tries: Cueto, Gaskell, Bell Cons: Hodgson 2 Pens: Hodgson 3
Saracens (9) 22
Try: Short Con: Farrell Pens: Farrell 5

Charlie Hodgson
Charlie Hodgson kicked three penalties for Sale on his return from injury

Sale Sharks made Gavin Henson's first start in two years one to forget as they saw off third-placed Saracens.

Despite Owen Farrell's early penalty, Sale bossed the first half with early Mark Cueto and James Gaskell tries.

Charlie Hodgson kicked three penalties and Chris Bell added a third try, before Farrell's two penalties reduced the deficit to 28-9 at half-time.

James Short's try and two more Farrell penalties closed the gap, but Sale hung on for a first win under Pete Anglesea.

Anglesea's first game in charge had ended in a thumping 54-21 defeat at Leicester last week.

Saracens were boosted with Henson starting his first game for almost two years - the outside centre made his club debut on Boxing Day, coming off the bench against Wasps at Wembley.

Rhisga Dreigiau

But it was the home side who dominated almost from the off, despite falling behind to a Farrell penalty after only two minutes.

From then on it was one-way traffic and Cueto took advantage of a poor Saracens scrum to score his 70th Premiership try in the sixth minute, but Hodgson missed the conversion attempt.

Six minutes later and another turnover led to the home side's second score - a great drive forward saw Gaskell go over for his third try in 20 matches.

Gaskell, who returned to the side for the first time since losing the captaincy following the sacking of head coach Mike Brewer, just managed to ground the ball through a number of players and the try was given following extensive video replays.

Hodgson made sure with his second conversation attempt, and then kicked three successive penalties in eight minutes to go past 50 points for the season, as Sale opened up an 18-point lead.

Sale's third try came at the 30-minute mark as the home side powered through the heart of the Saracens back line, and Bell side-stepped the final attempted tackle to ground the ball with ease.

Hodgson had no trouble with the conversion, before two Farrell penalties in the last four minutes of the half finally saw Saracens back on the board again, but Sale went in with a 28-9 half-time lead.

Henson's full debut for Saracens lasted until the 53rd minute, when he was replaced by Noah Cato, and soon after Farrell kicked his fourth penalty of the afternoon.

Sale were less fluent in the second half and as Saracens' confidence grew they put the hosts under increasing pressure.

With 13 minutes remaining, great footwork from Short saw the visitors score their only try of the game, which was converted by Farrell.

Farrell then kicked penalty number five to close the gap to six points with five minutes remaining, but Sale held firm in the closing stages to begin 2011 with a victory.

Sale head coach Pete Anglesea:
"It shows in the way the players walk around, you can see that their body language has changed.

"The attitude was fantastic for me because I think there was one stage where we had a scrum about 13 minutes before half-time.

"We had a great scrum, the referee gave a penalty in our favour and all the backs ran over to all the forwards and I think that's some part of team spirit that we haven't seen in a long while. It touched me more than anything really."

Saracens first-team coach Mark McCall:
"We came across a very, very motivated Sale Sharks team, who were outstanding in the tackle area.

"[They were] outstanding in the physical exchanges and were better than us by a long, long way in those exchanges.

"That's why we came a very poor second best."

Sale: Williams; Crane, Bell, Tonetti, Cueto (capt); Hodgson, Peel; Sheridan, M Jones, Wihongi; C Jones, Ormsby, Gaskell, Fearns, Koyamaibole.

Replacements: M. Tait for Crane (60), MacLeod for Cueto (60), Imiolek for Sheridan (74), B. Roberts for M. Jones (70), Thomas for Wihongi (67), McMillan for Koyamaibole (57).
Not Used: Cox, Cliff.

Saracens: Goode; Tagicakibau, Henson, Barritt, Short; Farrell, Wigglesworth; Carstens, Brits, du Plessis; Borthwick (capt), Botha; Burger, Saull, Joubert.

Replacements: Cato for Henson (53), Barrett for Wigglesworth (70), Gill for Carstens (53), George for Brits (70), K. Brown for Botha (53), Kruis for Saull (53).
Not Used: Ellershaw, Mordt.

Att: 8,646.

Ref: Dave Pearson (RFU).

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see also
Dragons snap up scrum-half Petri
02 Jan 11 |  NG Dragons
Winger Cueto given Sale captaincy
29 Dec 10 |  Sale
Leicester 54-21 Sale
27 Dec 10 |  English
Saracens 13-6 Wasps
26 Dec 10 |  English

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