Ford’s narrow victory over Saracens helps Sale increase their lead at the top by four points.

Premiership leaders Sale demonstrated their claim to the title as they narrowly defeated fellow high-flyers Saracens 22-20 in an exciting match. The Sharks, who scored three tries in challenging conditions, have now won 12 consecutive home league games and are at the top of the table.

This match was a repeat of last season’s Premiership final, and both teams came into this highly-anticipated clash at Salford Stadium with mixed results in the Champions Cup.

Both sides struggled with handling errors early on due to the swirling wind. However, Saracens, who had a win against Connacht in Europe, took the lead with a routine close-range penalty kicked by Owen Farrell after the Sharks lost out at a scrum.

The hosts, who were defeated by Leinster in their previous game, responded strongly and scored a classic pushover try in the 18th minute. Agustín Creevy crossed the line following a successful maul, and George Ford’s conversion made it 7-3.

As the game progressed into the second quarter, Sale started to dominate, although a breakthrough from either side seemed likely. Saracens resisted immense pressure from the hosts, but with the final play of the first half, they capitalized on a gift.

Ivan van Zyl easily intercepted a poor pass from Gus Warr and scored unopposed under the posts. Farrell’s successful conversion gave the visitors a 10-7 halftime lead. However, Sale only needed four minutes in the second half to regain the advantage.

The ball was shifted wide to Tom Roebuck, who dived over the try line, but Ford’s conversion was affected by the wind and unsuccessful. With less than 50 minutes played, Sale scored again. Luke Cowan-Dickie powered over after the hosts won a lineout, and Ford’s kick extended the lead to 19-10.

Sale conceded an offside penalty, allowing Farrell to reduce the deficit to six points. However, Alex Sanderson’s Sharks remained focused and quickly regained the lost points through Ford. The tension among the home supporters increased when Gareth Simpson scored and Farrell expertly converted, bringing the score to 22-20 with 10 minutes remaining.

In a late attempt, Ford’s penalty struck a post, but it had no impact as the nearly 10,000-strong home crowd celebrated a well-deserved victory.

Fiji center Virimi Vakatawa sealed a 21-13 win for Bristol Bears at Kingston Park, extending Newcastle Falcons’ losing streak to 11 matches. Vakatawa scored a brilliant solo try from midfield when Bristol had a one-point lead. Harry Thacker had earlier scored their first try, and Gabriel Oghre added a third late in the game.

Newcastle stayed within reach at 7-6, but it was only in the final play that Kiran McDonald managed to cross the line for the hosts. This has been a familiar pattern for Newcastle at Kingston Park, being competitive and strong in defense but struggling to convert chances.

This season, they have lost nine Premiership matches and two European Challenge Cup matches.

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