Lozowski steers depleted Saracens to summit
PREMIERSHIP SUNDAY WRAP: Alex Lozowski kicked 13 points as a Saracens side shorn of their international players won 28-13 at Sale on Sunday to return to the English Premiership summit.
Marcelo Bosch, Matt Gallagher and Ben Spencer went over for the champions at the AJ Bell Stadium, with Lozowski shining at flyhalf in the absence of England international Owen Farrell.
In Sunday's other match, Freddie Burns produced a virtuoso display to lead Leicester Tigers back into the top four of the Premiership table with a 25-6 win over Harlequins.
The flyhalf scored 10 points, also creating the opening try for Owen Williams, as Tigers moved back ahead of Exeter Chiefs.
Sale Sharks 13-28 Saracens
Josh Beaumont crossed to put Sale ahead in the first half, but they could only add a further eight points from the boot of flyhalf AJ MacGinity.
"It was great because a lot of our experienced players were outstanding today: Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Brad Barritt," said Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall.
"I could name quite a few of them. We were really pleased to pick up the points and really pleased with a lot of aspects of the performance, in terms of the qualities we want to show every week.
"Our maul defence five metres from our line was outstanding. It's normally a big strength of theirs, but Jim Hamilton and the rest of the forwards did a great job."
Saracens had been 0-17 down after just 16 minutes on their previous trip to Manchester, but this time they were careful not to be caught cold, Alex Lozowski landing an early penalty.
Sale felt their way into the game and after a spell of pressure they touched down via Beaumont's close-range effort.
But Saracens were quick to respond and resumed control of the contest when Marcelo Bosch went over after a move in which Burger and Brits featured prominently.
Lozowski converted and added another penalty to put Saracens 13-7 to the good at the break.
A botched Sale line-out enabled the visitors to tighten their grip on the game early in the second period, with Lozowski and Barritt feeding Matt Gallagher to cross the whitewash.
After a penalty apiece, Sale lost Halani Aulika to a yellow card for needlessly swinging a punch at Hamilton.
Sale reorganised effectively and reduced the arrears thanks to a three-pointer from MacGinty.
The sin-binning of Michael Rhodes offered them further hope, but instead Saracens struck again as Lozowski brilliantly jinked past several defenders before offloading for Ben Spencer to finish at pace.
Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond was left to rue his side's inability to execute in key areas.
"We looked like we tried a little bit too hard and we gave a lot of penalties away in the first half," he said.
"I thought we were beaten by the better side."
For Sale Sharks:
Pens: MacGinty 2
Tries: Bosch, Gallagher, Spencer
Cons: Lozowski 2
Pens: Lozowski 3
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Mark Jennings, 23 Tom Arscott
Saracens: 15 Andrew Fenby, 14 Mike Ellery, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Mike Rhodes, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Richard Barrington.
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Titi Lamositele, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Joel Conlon, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nick Tompkins, 23 Matt Gallagher.
Referee: Andrew Jackson
Assistant referees: Ross Campbell, Jack Makepeace
TMO: David Sainsbury
Leicester Tigers 25-6 Harlequins
The home side edged the first half, leading 9-6 but after the break they really started to take control, as Freddie Burns added two penalties, a drop goal and as well as putting Owen Williams over for the try.
Harlequins had battled hard in the first half, but struggled to create chances in the second and never really threatened a win on the road.
It was a tight start with both teams showing intent to move the ball, but Harlequins broke the deadlock through a Nick Evans penalty.
Leicester responded in kind though, Burns' effort from the right just sneaking inside the post to level the scores.
And when Charlie Matthews stuck a boot into a ruck after quick hands had put Leicester in a great position, Burns knocked over his second penalty of the afternoon.
They weren't in front for long though, with Evans slotting his second soon after as both teams struggled to create clear try-scoring opportunities in the first quarter of the game.
The visitors were starting to make some ground with ball in hand, with James Chisholm particularly prominent, but one good attacking opportunity bit the dust when they pushed early at a scrum just outside the 22.
Instead it was Leicester who moved back in front, Matthews isolated after Alofa Alofa had claimed a high ball and Burns making no mistake from 40 metres out.
If conditions were making attacking play difficult, there was no shortage of physicality, with Evans on the receiving end of one huge Genge hit. At the other end Karl Dickson made a crucial turnover to earn a penalty as Leicester attacked down the blindside from a line-out in the 22.
Leading 9-6 at half-time, Leicester began the second half on the front foot and thought they'd scored the first try when Burns took a quick tap and dived over. Unfortunately for the Tigers flyhalf, he’d taken the tap from the wrong spot and instead had to settle for a simple penalty.
And soon after Burns showed another side to his skillset with a sharp drop goal after dropping back into the pocket.
Burns was enjoying a dream afternoon, and played creator for the opening try of the game. At a scrum five metres out Burns spotted space in behind the visitors' defensive line, with Williams racing onto it to score. The flyhalf converted once more to stretch the lead to 22-6.
A further penalty from Burns stretched the lead to 19 points, although he came off for a short spell after a heavy collision with Charlie Walker.
Leicester lost second row Mike Fitzgerald with ten minutes remaining to a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Chisholm, with the Harlequins player joining him in the bin for retaliation.
For Leicester Tigers:
Pens: Burns 5
Pens: Evans 2
Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jono Kitto, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater, 3 Greg Bateman, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Marcos Ayerza, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Graham Kitchener, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Jack Roberts, 23 George Worth.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Winston Stanley, 11 Alofa Alofa, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Charlie Matthews, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Stan South, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Charlie Walker.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Nigel Carrick
TMO: David Grashoff
AFP & premrugby