Owen Farrell took centre-stage as Saracens claimed a record-equalling 13th straight European Champions Cup win which meant Castleford Tigers rugby league contract rebel Denny Solomona suffered a losing debut for Sale.
Farrell – the son of league legend and cross-code international, Andy – scored a late try and kicked 14 points as the reigning European champions matched Munster’s record of successive wins.
For the second match in succession, Sale had three players sin-binned against Saracens, but this was a vastly improved display from last week’s 50-3 hammering at Allianz Park.
Solomona played 80 minutes on the right wing but could not find the whitewash as Saracens produced a typically clinical display to underline their class.
Nathan Earle scored a second try late on for Saracens before Sale lock Bryn Evans grabbed a last-gasp consolation for the hosts, who slipped to their sixth straight defeat.
Solomona was announced as a Sale player earlier this week before Castleford responded by issuing High Court proceedings for damages against the player.
The Super League outfit are also seeking damages against Sale and Solomona’s agent Andy Clarke for allegedly inducing a breach of contract.
Sale confirmed on Tuesday that prolific try-scorer Solomona had signed a three-year contract with them, despite still having two years left on his Tigers deal.
He was facing a Saracens outfit who were crowned European champions last season and who thrashed the Sharks 50-3 last week.
Sale were significantly improved during the first half but Saracens established a slender 6-3 lead courtesy of two penalties from Farrell.
The hosts created the first opening in the eighth minute when Josh Charnley collected possession inside his own half and showed impressive pace to advance into the right channel.
The former Wigan man then found full-back Mike Haley but he could not find Solomona lurking on the right touchline and the ball went into touch.
Farrell’s first penalty then put Saracens ahead after Sale were caught offside, and then midway through the first half Solomona was presented with a golden opportunity.
Brad Barritt’s wayward pass found Solomona on the edge of Sale’s 22 but the league convert spilled the ball and the opportunity was lost.
Saracens began to probe but Sale’s defence was impressive as they continually kept their visitors at bay.
After AJ MacGinty kicked a penalty to draw Sale level in the 28th minute, Saracens went close when Farrell orchestrated a fine counter-attack which saw Barritt’s kick to the corner sail into touch.
Another penalty from Farrell restored the visitors’ advantage before the break while Sale lost hooker Rob Webber to a yellow card four minutes after the restart.
Farrell then uncharacteristically missed two penalties in quick succession but he found his range for another three-pointer after Sale lock Evans was penalised for a deliberate knock-on.
After Solomona failed to take MacGinty’s cross-field kick in his stride in the right corner, Sale then lost number TJ Ioane to a yellow card in the last 10 minutes after Farrell had escaped punishment for catching Haley late.
Farrell then went over late on from Will Skelton’s pass and Earle touched down a grubber kick before Evans crashed over late on for Sale.
Tournament organisers have said that Connacht should not have been awarded the late line-out from which they scored their winning try against Champions Cup opponents Wasps on Saturday.
The reigning Guinness PRO12 champions struck in the dying seconds, claiming a 20-18 pool victory that kept them in quarter-final contention.
But European Professional Club Rugby also said that the result stands.
In a statement, EPCR said: “The assistant referee, who had taken over as match referee following an injury to Jerome Garces, awarded a penalty to Connacht after time had elapsed.
“Connacht kicked the ball into touch, and from the resultant line-out, scored a converted try to win the game 20-18.
“However, as time had elapsed, Connacht should not have been permitted to take a line-out throw-in once the ball had been kicked into touch, as stipulated in Law 5.7 (e) of World Rugby’s Laws of the Game. EPCR would like to thank all parties for their understanding, and would also like to confirm that the result of the Pool Two match stands.”
Going into next month’s final two rounds of group fixtures Wasps, Toulouse and Connacht are level on 13 points.
Jamie Roberts scored a hat-trick as Harlequins demolished Romanian side Timisoara Saracens 75-3 to go top of European Challenge Cup Pool Five.
Quins ran in 11 tries at the Twickenham Stoop to move above Edinburgh, who lost at Stade Francais on Thursday.
Wales centre Roberts was joined on the scoresheet by England backs Mike Brown and Marlande Yarde, who both scored twice, while there were also tries for Luke Wallace, Tim Visser, Jack Clifford and Tim Swiel. Ruaridh Jackson and Swiel each landed five conversions.
Winless Timisoara trailed 35-0 at the break but scored a penalty through Gabriel Conache.
Pool Two leaders Ospreys, who also amassed 11 tries, thrashed Grenoble 71-3 at the Liberty Stadium.
Scott Baldwin, Dan Evans and Hanno Dirkson scored braces along with tries for Olly Cracknell, Ashley Beck, Brendon Leonard, Scott Otten and Dan Biggar, who kicked eight conversions.
Gilles Bosch landed a first-half penalty for the winless visitors who trailed 33-3 at half-time.
Benetton Treviso gained their second victory in Pool One, prevailing 21-17 at home to winless Bayonne.
The hosts scored all their points in the first half with David Odiete and Luca Bigi touching down before a penalty try was awarded. Tommaso Allan landed all three conversions.
Bayonne trailed 21-10 at the break at Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Raphael Lagarde having converted Julien Tisseron’s try and kicked a penalty. Lagarde also added the extras to Thibault Lacroix’s second-half score.