Saracens were making their third trip to the Salford City Stadium . Saracens were the first team to play an Aviva Premiership game there in September, which they won, but Sale Sharks beat Saracens 25-23 in the Group Stages of the LV Cup last November.
Sale's only other semi-final appearance came in the second season of the Anglo-Welsh Cup, then under the guise of the EDF Energy Cup, when they lost 29-19 to eventual winners Leicester at the Millennium Stadium in March 2007. Saracens, meanwhile, are through to their third semi-final having reached this stage in 2008 (3-30 v Ospreys) and 2010 (20-31 v Northampton).
Sharks were dealt a pre match blow when Cameron Shepherd pulled up in the warm up and youngster Mike Haley was drafted in as a last minute replacement at full back.
Sale enjoyed much of the early minutes on the attack with Andy Powell and Henry Thomas were making good metres before a knock on brought a promising series of phases to a halt.
Danny Cipriani put the first points on the board on three minutes with a ten metre penalty. 3-0. The lead lasted less than two minutes as Saracens scrum half Ben Spencer kicked a penalty from in front of the posts for Saracens. 3-3. Spencer kicked his second penalty on 7 minutes from 40 metres, wind assisted 3-6.
Sale were playing into a very strong wind and even penalty kicks to touch were not relieving the pressure. Spencer added a third penalty on 13 mins from near half way 3-9.
Play was halted on 16 minutes when Sale Sharks captain David Seymour had lengthy treatment for a bang on his shoulder but he resumed albeit looking a little worse for wear. Danny Cipriani brought Sharks back in contention on 17 minutes with another close range kicked penalty 6-9.
Saracens applied most of the pressure after the Cipriani penalty and went 6-12 up on 24 minutes with Spencer's fourth penalty.
Sharks weathered a lot of Saracens pressure before Tom Holmes won a line out 15 metres out after 37 minutes and charged over for a try 11-12. Cipriani's attempted conversion demonstrated how vicious the wind was as it bent away badly after being kicked 11-12. The try was no more than Sharks and Tom Holmes deserved. Tom is fast becoming a force at lock and is one of the clubs home grown talented youngsters.
Half Time Sale Sharks 11 Saracens 12
Playing with the wind Sharks were dealt an early blow when scrum half Cillian Willis appeared to be tackled high and was attended to by the medical team. Thankfully he got to his feet and resumed.
Andy Powell made a barnstorming run into the Saracens half as Sharks attempted to take the lead but Saracens defence held firm. Sharks made their first change on 49 minutes when Nathan Fowles replaced Cillian Willis who was struggling after his earlier injury.
The visitors launched an attack on 51 minutes and were rewarded with a penalty which Ben Spencer took. His 100% record was ended when his kick was caught by the wind and went horribly wide.
Sharks made mass replacements on 55 minutes with Dickinson, Jones, Ostrikov and Buckley entering the field of play for Harrison, Taylor, Holmes and Thomas.
On 61 minutes Saracens brought on two substitutes in Matt Stevens and Charlie Hodgson as they were looking to build on their one point lead. A minutes after the substitutions were made Saracens were awarded a penalty 25 metres out in front of goal which Ben Spencer slotted home.
Sharks mounted a series of attacks on the Saracens line after 66 minutes and Nathan Fowles scored a try in the corner to give the home side the lead 16-15. Then Danny Cipriani judged the conditions perfectly to convert from the touchline 18-15, with 13 minutes left.
Sharks didn't try to rest on their slender lead, deciding the best form of defence was to attack. Andy Powell was having one of his best games since signing for the club, making metres at every opportunity and putting in some huge tackles too.
The crowd of 3129 were on their feet with three minutes to go as Sharks were awarded a penalty. Cipriani opted to kick for goal and made no mistake 21-15.
The Sky Sports Man of the Match was awarded to Andy Powell.
Full Time Sale Sharks 21 Saracens 15
Sale Sharks: Mike Haley, Tom Brady (off 69mins) , Jonny Leota, Nick Macleod, Charlie Ingall, Danny Cipriani, Cillian Willis (off 47mins), Ross Harrison (off 52mins), Tommy Taylor (off 55mins), Henry Thomas (off 55mins), Fraser McKenzie, Tom Holmes (off 55mins), James Gaskell, David Seymour, Andy Powell
Replacements: Marc Jones (on for Taylor 55mins), Alasdair Dickinson (on for Harrison 52mins), Tony Buckley (on for Thomas 55mins), Andrei Ostrikov (on for Holmes 55mins), James Doyle, Nathan Fowles (on for Willis 47mins), Sam James, Will Addison (on for Brady 69mins)
Scoring Sequence (Sharks first): 3-0, 3-3, 3-6, 3-9, 6-9, 6-12, 11-12 (HALF TIME) 11-15, 16-15, 18-15, 21-15
Tickets for the final are available from Ticketmaster http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/LV-Cup-Final-tickets/artist/1797598
|Sale Sharks Score Card|
|Saracens Score Card|