This is a new weekly feature for the 2015/16 season that looks at Sale's previous game and attempts to form a number of opinions and ideas to takeaway from the weekend's result by using statistics rather than the standard 'eye test'. All statistics are provided by Premiershiprugby.com
Mike Haley and Will Addison's up-and-down games
Sale were played off the park in resounding fashion by reigning Premiership champions Saracens on Saturday with only a small handful of players emerging with any credibility for their afternoon efforts. Mike Haley and Will Addison were somewhat enigmatic during the weekend's game however, impressing on a number of fronts but also performing poorly in offers.
First the good. Despite only making a single clean break, Will Addison led the team on Saturday with four defenders beaten and the most metres made (50) of any Sale player (excluding Mike Haley, whose position of fullback guarantees him a number of 'easy' metres due to the nature of his positioning on the field).
In addition Mike Haley compiled the most clean breaks (3) for Sale and made 100 metres, albeit on 21 carrys, albeit with that number inflated by his position. He also apparently won a lineout. Who needs a fourth lock in the squad?
The bad however was the turnovers. Between the two of them, Haley and Addison combined to conceded 8 of Sale's 20 turnovers on the day (Addison - 3, Haley - 5) a ludicrously high number that was a pivotal reason why Sale struggled to gain any ascendancy and territory especially in the first half. Addison also woefully missed a tackle on Tim Streather that directly resulted in Saracens' third try.
Overall there were some positives for two of Sale's brightest young, attacking threats, but also plenty for them to work upon for Friday.
Mark Easter's no-good, very bad day
Mark Easter continued to not be a Number 8 on Saturday, carrying the ball 10 times for a grand total of... 11 metres. Although he did not miss a tackle (because he's actually a decent flanker) and offloaded the ball a surprising four times, Easter also conceded two penalties, both offsides, both in the first half, once again adding to Saracens' oppressive and continuous pressure during the first forty.
Arguably a more notable knock-on effect of Easter's selection however was that Josh Beaumont, No.8 extraordinaire, only carried the ball a paltry three times (for 8 metres made). Easter simply doesn't give enough at the No.8 position and as a consequence reduces the effectiveness of one of Sale's best ball-carriers.
If Beaumont is staying at lock for Friday, please play Vilhami Fihaki or TJ Ioane at Number 8 instead Dimes.
Sale managed only a single lineout steal on Saturday. Having watched the game I feel Bryn Evans (the recipient of that single steal) was unlucky not to have snagged more because of the pressure he exerted on the Saracens' set-piece, however rugby, like all sports, is a game of small margins and Sale were never going to win a game with only one turnover at the lineout. Sale lost 2 of their own lineouts on 12 attempts, whereas Saracens lost only 1 in 19 attempts, a gulf that big is also going to give one side a huge advantage in territory and opportunities to put points on the board.
An overmatched front row
Before last week's game, much of Sale's optimism revolved around a powerful new-look front row complete with two budding English talents (Ross Harrison and Tommy Taylor) and Sale's star summer addition, Brian Mujati. However that optimism came to a shuddering holt on Saturday where the Sharks' trio of front rowers were comprehensively outmatched and outscrummed.
Harrison, Taylor, and Mujati conceded a total of five penalties (four at the scrum) in sixty minutes of action as Sale's pack folded unilaterally against a far superior Saracens scrum. Considering the importance (and money) invested in the Sale front row, so much more is required from that position of the Sale scrum after a very shaky debut.
Turnovers and penalties will always kill you
The comparative team stats for Saturday do not make for easy reading. Sale conceded a staggering 20 turnovers compared to Saracens' 12 and 15 penalties to the Fez Heads' 10. Saracens are so merciless when it comes to punishing mistakes that with those numbers, it is no surprise Sarries were able to put forty points on Sale. Discipline, both with ball-in-hand, at the breakdown, and in defence, need a rapid improvement if Sale are to not replicate this performance against Worcester on Friday.
It's not all doom and gloom
Ever the optimist, I did find some reason for Sale fans to be cheerful this week. Although I should qualify there is a good chance the numbers are skewed this way because of Saracens' large lead for much of the game and subsequent lack of need to press and attack; Sale actually made more metres (397-347, albeit on more carries), beat more defenders (20-13), made more clean breaks (11-7), and off-loaded the ball more (14-5) than their Premiership counterparts. It is, of course, only one game, but such attacking fluency especially in off-loading suggests Paul Deacon's appointment as attack coach is beginning to bear some fruit, even against a defence as stifling as Saracens' was on Saturday.
Lewis Hughes thinks 'Shark Data' is a pretty rubbish name for this column and welcomes any suggestions readers have for a more apt or clever title. He also welcomes any feedback on this column and the other recent changes made to the website. You can also follow @SharkTankRugby on Twitter for more news, analysis and opinions.