Sale were comprehensively beaten 40 points to 19 this afternoon as a dominant Saracens strolled to a bonus point victory. Lets take a look at the three things:
What is a reasonable result to expect for Sale?
A losing bonus point was what many - myself included - thought would constitute a meaningful result for Sale against who I think are simply the best team in English rugby. However a shocking display from Sale's pack that repeatedly gifted Saracens kickable penalties and even a penalty try along with aimless kicking from hand and a plethora of unforced errors meant after 40 minutes the game was well and truly out of Sale's reach and even securing a lbp would be an uphill battle. Things did get interesting later on as Sale scored their third try of the game (ironically a penalty try) with seven minutes left but even a herculean effort was not enough to get a try bonus point as Sale left the Allianz Park empty handed.
How can Sale win?
I outlined on Thursday how Sale could defeat Saracens and they then proceeded to do exactly the opposite of what I advised. Saracens scored after only 3 minutes and although Sale replied to make the game 10-7 after a Charlie Hodgson penalty, Saracens were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over as Sale gave away too many needless penalties. Some poor, aimless kicking from hand also helped give Saracens a huge share of possession allowing them to keep the pressure on Sale and not giving Sale the chance to test their defence, which played right into their "shut up shop" system of play. All things considered, Saracens smothered Sale across the 80 minutes and were deserving winners.
Can Sale keep up their free-flowing attacking performances against the stingiest defence in the league?
Another three tries to add to this season's tally makes for nice scoreboard viewing however two of Sale's three were scored via rolling maul (more on that later) as for the most part Sale's attack stuttered and faltered. It didn't make for good viewing.
Sale MOTM: Magnus Lund.