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Sale player ratings vs Saracens | 2023 Premiership final

By Daniel Gallan
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27: Tom Roebuck of Sale Sharks scores the team's second try during the Gallagher Premiership Final between Saracens and Sale Sharks at Twickenham Stadium on May 27, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Sale player ratings: We were told throughout the season that “Northern Rugby Matters”. Sale Sharks had body-surfed across this wave as they tethered their on-field performances to an entire region in the hinterland of English rugby. As clubs further south folded, and the game stumbled from one PR disaster to another, Alex Sanderson’s team provided an uplifting counter narrative.

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What matters more than slogans, though, is dominance at the breakdown, ascendency from the pack, accuracy off the kicking tee and a ruthlessness in the wider channels. There were some metrics that the northerners bossed, particularly the scrum, but too many that went the way of Saracens who were deserving winners on the day.

Sale played their part, and will say goodbye to some faithful veterans. But this was a step too far for a side that lacked sharpness on their biggest outing in 17 years.

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15. Joe Carpenter 5
He wasn’t the only man in maroon who lost the high-ball battle, but as fullback he must shoulder some blame. He was also responsible for Saracens’ penalty try when he made a mess of a bouncing ball, overrunning it and allowing Max Malins to steal in. Back field players are often quiet in big games, but their mistakes are heightened.

14. Tom Roebuck – 7
Try machines aren’t necessarily those with more pace and power than the rest, but those who refuse to stop running even when the chance seems to have gone. It paid dividends again as he continued to chase a hack from Akker van der Merwe and then toe the ball off Eliot Daly’s fingertips to dot down in the corner. What was a quiet game until then burst into life. Replaced by Tom O’Flaherty on 50 minutes.

13. Rob du Preez – 6
Was involved in some sparkling moves early in the first half and began to grow in influence at second receiver.

12. Manu Tuilagi – 4
Possessed plenty of power in beating four defenders in the first half alone, but a lack of sharpness cost his team. Was easily sucked in by Owen Farrell who dangled some obvious bait that the burly centre couldn’t refuse, creating space for Malins to cruise through for his try. And when a possible intercept was on, Tuilagi couldn’t react quick enough. Pound for pound one of the great players in the world on his day, but too often he seemed to be playing own game. Steve Borthwick’s opinion on him wouldn’t have changed after that show. Hooked for Same James with 10 minutes to play.

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11. Arron Reed – 6
Showed enthusiasm with a few counterattacking bursts but, like the rest of the back three, couldn’t provide that dominance in the air that’s needed in these crunch games.

10. George Ford – 6
His performance was always going to be compared to his old mate wearing the same number for the other team. And unfortunately for Ford, Farrell was sublime. Ford didn’t do much wrong but wasn’t spectacular, even when his forwards gained the upper hand on occasion.

9. Gus Warr – 5
Whirred at a high frequency but lacked the accuracy required. It was his cynical hand that allowed Saracens their first shot at goal though he milked a penalty later which saw Ford restore parity. Spent his time in sunny west London box kicking without any impact. Replaced by Raffi Quirke on 50 minutes.

1. Simon McIntyre – 8
Dominated his domain with three scrum penalties. One wonders why Sanderson opted to replace his entire front row in a single stroke. The lad who represents the region better than most was having a terrific day out. Replaced by Bevan Rodd five minutes after the break.

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2. Akker van der Merwe – 8
Burrowed under for his team’s opening try, earning his nickname of the “Angry Warthog”. Showed immense bravery to throw a short pass on his own 5m line, and then to attempt a kick down the line. Made a great break through middle and unfurled choppy attempt at an up and under which eventually bobbled into the corner and set up Roebuck for a try. Replaced by Ewan Ashmann on 45 minutes.

3. Nick Schonert – 7
Got in on the act and won a a penalty on his side of the scrum. Contributed in the loose as well for a handy performance for the front-rower. Replaced by Coenie Oosthuizen on 45 minutes.

4. Jean-Luc du Preez – 8
Strong in the carry and always present in the line-out. Was reckless on occasion, as he was when he charged on his own into a mass of three Saracens defenders and inevitably picked off. But his strength gave his team front foot ball when he held it. Substituted for Tom Ellis with only seven minutes left on the clock.

5. Jonny Hill – 6
Deserved credit for calling back referee Luke Pearce when Jamie George was prone with a suspected concussion even though his team were breaking down the left. Made XXX tackles and only missed. Provided grunt in the engine room.

6. Tom Curry – 7
It was an interesting game for one of England’s genuine suoperstars. When he was good, he was brilliant. As he was when he broke down the flank in the build up to Ashman’s try. But it was his foolishness that reduced his team to 14 men when he tackled Malins without the ball and coughed up a penalty try. This is the sort of erraticism that comes with the territory with an all action back rower.

7. Sam Dugdale – 6
Two strong carries in a minute off the back of a line-out in the first half was his personal highlight. Stood up with Curry was sin-binned during a ten minute period that Sale bossed despite the man disadvantage. Replaced by Josh Beaumont on 72 minutes,

8. Jono Ross – 6
Emotion wasn’t enough as this club legend was overshadowed by more telling contributions around him. It wasn’t a poor performance. Ross very rarely, if ever, produces one of those. But it wasn’t the titanic display that was needed to carry his team home.

Substitutes:

16. Ewan Ashman – 2
Fluffed his first throw to the line that almost cost his team a try and then missed his target again on his second attempt. Later he missed his jumper for a third time when Sale had done well to win a line-out with 15 minutes left. That play ended with Daly scoring a crucial try that ultimately proved to be the decisive blow.

17. Bevan Rodd – 8
Lost an important scrum with his first major involvement but at the other end of the field picked up the ball and dived over to score a crucial try after throwing a brilliant pass in the build up which gave Sale the lead for the first time in the game.

18. Coenie Ooshuizen 6
The hefty Saffa kept Sale in the game with a mighty show in the scrum and also contributed with a few neat wraparound passes.

19. Josh Beaumont – N/A

20. Tom Ellis – N/A

21. Raffi Quirke – 8
Brought a sense of calm when he entered the scene. Still fizzed about with great energy but there was something more composed about his play. No coincidence that Sale’s forwards began receiving the ball on the front foot when he started directing traffic.

22. Sam James – 5
Made one strong run but was never going to pack the same punch as Tuilagi.

23. Tom O’Flaherty – 6
Added some surety under the high ball. A decent cameo.

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