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LV= Cup: Sale Sharks to face Harlequins in final after beating Saracens
Sale Sharks extinguished Saracens' hopes of a treble after upsetting the Aviva Premiership leaders 21-15 in the semi-finals of the LV= Cup at the Salford City Stadium.
The Sharks might be struggling in league action this season, but tries either side of half time from Tom Holmes and Nathan Fowles clinched the remarkable victory.
Ben Spencer kicked all 15 points for Saracens who can now concentrate on the Aviva Premiership and Heineken Cup, while Sale will face Harlequins in next Sunday's final at Sixways Stadium.
The home side started the brighter and their pressure was eventually rewarded after four minutes when the visitors infringed at the breakdown and Danny Cipriani kicked the penalty.
The lead was short-lived as indiscipline from the restart offered up a simple chance for Spencer to level, which he duly took.
With the wind against them the Sharks were being pinned back in their own half and successive penalties from scrum-half Spencer took Saracens into a 9-3 lead. The respective kickers then traded penalties.
However, they failed to make their dominance tell on the scoreboard as a solid Sale rearguard kept the visitors from crossing the whitewash, and the hosts profited when one of their few excursions into the opposition 22 resulted in a try.
It stemmed from a poor throw at the lineout by hooker Tommy Taylor, but the ball fell kindly for Holmes and he powered his way over.
Spurred on by that touchdown just before the break, the home side did most of the running in the early second-half exchanges. Andy Powell - impressive throughout - and Charlie Ingall both made bursts but mistakes at crucial moments prevented them from building on a positive opening.
With 20 minutes to go Saracens decided to send on the cavalry with former England internationals Matt Stevens and Charlie Hodgson coming on to the field.
Almost immediately they earned a penalty in front of the posts which Spencer kicked to extend the lead to 15-11.
But the Sharks hit back when, after numerous phases, James Gaskell's offload found Fowles and the replacement half-back touched down. Cipriani added the conversion and then a late three-pointer to seal the win.
|Saturday 31st January|
|15:00||Scarlets vs London Irish|
|15:00||Wasps vs Cardiff Blues|
|15:00||Leicester vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Sale|
|15:00||London Welsh vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Bath|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Ospreys|
|15:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Exeter|
|Saturday 7th February|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Harlequins|
|15:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Bath vs Ospreys|
|15:00||Sale vs Scarlets|
|15:00||Northampton vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Saracens vs Exeter|
|15:00||Cardiff Blues vs Leicester|
|Friday 14th November|
|Ospreys 35 - 51 Dragons|
|Cardiff Blues 19 - 13 Scarlets|
|Sunday 9th November|
|Leicester 29 - 13 Sale Sharks|
|London Welsh 9 - 18 Gloucester|
|Wasps 43 - 22 London Irish|
|Saturday 8th November|
|Exeter 18 - 6 Bath|
|Friday 7th November|
|Newcastle 21 - 22 Cardiff Blues|
|Harlequins 31 - 21 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Ospreys 9 - 21 Saracens|
|Scarlets 7 - 24 Northampton|
|Sunday 2nd November|
|Saracens 25 - 20 Harlequins|
|Saturday 1st November|
|Northampton 37 - 23 Newcastle|
|London Irish 16 - 17 Leicester|
|Bath 47 - 7 London Welsh|
|Exeter 28 - 27 Gloucester|
|Sale Sharks 32 - 29 Wasps|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com