Chris Ashton on his Sale Sharks debut

Sale Sharks and Saracens played out a gripping 15-15 draw in the Premiership Rugby Cup on Friday night.

The closely fought contest could have gone either way, but neither side could force a victory despite their best efforts.

Sale dominated much of the opening exchanges and were rewarded when Will Cliff knocked over a simple penalty to give them a 3-0 advantage.

Saracens struggled to get a foothold in the game as the Sharks forwards carried the ball excellently.

However, with their first real opportunity of the match, they would take the lead. The impressive Joel Kpoki forcing his way over from short range and Max Malins adding the conversion.

Six minutes later the visitors would have their second score of the evening. Dom Morries bursting through the Sale defence before his clever kick wide found its way to Ali Crossdale. The winger held up just short of the line but able to offload to Matt Gallagher who finished a quite brilliant passage of play.

Malins would miss the kick on this occasion, but Saracens were ahead 12-3.

The two scores in quick succession had turned the game in Saracens favour with their ability to win penalties and turnovers at the breakdown allowing them to control much of the opening 40 minutes.

Sale needed some inspiration to get themselves back in the game, and they got it through Arron Reed just before half-time.

The winger using his speed to take him just short of the Saracens line. However, he would offload perfectly to Paolo Odogwu who stretched out well to score.

A flowing backs move which cut the deficit to just two points, once Cliff had converted wonderfully from the touchline.

The early stages of the second-half were scrappy, but Sale did eventually establish an attacking opportunity.

The Sharks’ spent a prolonged period in the Saracens 22, and Josh Strauss looked to have scored after a barnstorming run off the back of a scrum. Although the try was controversially disallowed, much to the annoyance of those Sale fans in attendance.

It would make little difference as a couple minutes later Cliff added a try to what had already been a great performance from him. The scrum-half spotting a gap in the onrushing Saracens defence to dot the ball down.

He was not able to convert, but Sale now had a 15-12 lead.

Saracens unbeaten start to the season was now under threat, but like the best teams often do, they responded well.

A spell of possession from the away side would see Sale stray offside and Malins’ successful penalty levelled the scores.

The final 10 minutes saw both sides attempting to force a win, but in the end, a draw was a fair reflection of what had been a brutal encounter.

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