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 fly-half in the absence of England international Owen Farrell.
Josh Beaumont crossed to put Sale ahead in the first half, but they could only add a further eight points from the boot of fly-half 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 17-0 down after just 16 minutes on their previous trip to Manchester, but this time they were careful not to be caught cold, 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 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 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 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.”
Former England fly-half Freddie Burns kicked 20 points as Leicester moved back into the top four with a straightforward 25-6 home win over Harlequins.
Burns did not miss a kick, notching five penalties and a drop goal and converting the only try of the match, scored by Owen Williams.
Nick Evans replied with a pair of penalties for Quins, who remain eighth.
© 2016 AFP
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