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Ford's performance helped Sale increase their lead at the top to four points after a close victory over Saracens.
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Ford’s performance helped Sale increase their lead at the top to four points after a close victory over Saracens.

The Premiership leaders Sale showed their title credentials as they edged out fellow high-flyers Saracens 22-20 in a festive thriller. It is now 12 home league victories on the spin for the Sharks, who scored three tries in difficult conditions to go clear at the summit.

Both teams entered the highly-anticipated match at Salford Stadium with a record of mixed outcomes in the Champions Cup, mirroring last season’s Premiership final.

In the beginning of the game, both teams struggled to adjust to the strong wind. There were multiple handling mistakes. Sarries, led by Mark McCall and who had previously defeated Connacht in Europe, were able to score first with a penalty kick from Owen Farrell, after the Sharks lost out on a scrum.

Last weekend, Leinster beat the hosts 37-28. However, the hosts bounced back with determination and in the 18th minute, they scored a traditional pushover try. Agustín Creevy from Argentina powered through to score after a successful maul, and George Ford’s conversion brought the score to 7-3.

As the game progressed into the second quarter, Sale began to take control, although it seemed likely that a break from either team could occur. Despite facing strong pressure from the home team, Saracens held their ground. However, in the last moment of the first half, they were given an opportunity that allowed them to go into halftime with the lead.

Ivan van Zyl effortlessly caught a surprising pass from Ford and ran unchallenged to score a try under the goal posts. Farrell’s kick gave the away team a 10-7 lead at halftime. However, in just four minutes of the second half, Sale regained the lead.

The ball was passed out wide to Tom Roebuck by the backs, and he successfully dived over the line. However, Ford’s conversion was affected by the wind and was not successful. This was a captivating game that either team had the opportunity to win, and Sale managed to score once again before 50 minutes had passed.

Luke Cowan-Dickie scored a try after the home team won a lineout. George Ford’s kick hit the post but was still successful, increasing the lead to 19-10.

Farrell was given an easy kick opportunity due to a Sale offside, bringing the score to within six points. However, despite the Sharks’ efforts, Ford was able to gain three points back. When Simpson scored and Farrell successfully converted, the score was brought to 22-20. This caused tension among the home fans with only 10 minutes remaining.

Ford witnessed a last-minute penalty hit the post, but it did not matter much as the nearly 10,000 fans in attendance rejoiced in the well-deserved win.

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Virimi Vakatawa, a player from Fiji, scored a solo try in a smooth manner, securing a 21-13 win for Bristol at Kingston Park. This loss extends Newcastle’s streak of 11 consecutive losses.

Vakatawa made a mazy run from midfield to score Bristol’s second try when the visitors led by a single point. Harry Thacker had gone over for their first try before Gabriel Oghre added a third late in the game.

Newcastle made contact when the score was 7-6, but it wasn’t until the final play that Kiran McDonald was able to score for the home team. This was a common pattern for Newcastle at Kingston Park, where they put up a good fight and had strong defense, but were unable to capitalize on their opportunities.

This season, they have lost a total of nine matches in the Premiership and two in the European Challenge Cup.

Source: theguardian.com