Heineken Champions Cup Pool 3 leaders Saracens stepped up their build-up to Round 3 with their seventh Gallagher Premiership win in a row on Saturday, when they registered a hard-fought 31-25 home victory against Sale Sharks.

The London club, who host Cardiff Blues on December 9, stretched their unbeaten sequence in all competitions to 18 games by resisting a strong comeback from Sale, after Saracens had opened up a 21-6 lead.

They defied the absence of a host of players on international duty with tries from flanker Michael Rhodes, wing Alex Lewington, centre Nick Tompkins and replacement Joel Kpoku, plus 11 points from the boot of scrum-half Ben Spencer.

Saracens thus retained second place in the Premiership and only trail Exeter Chiefs on points difference, after the Chiefs squeezed home 31-29 at Bristol Bears on Sunday.

An injury-time penalty try clinched Exeter’s seventh victory in seven Premiership games, after prop Moray Low, No.8 Tom Lawday, wing Santiago Cordero and hooker Jack Yeandle had touched down.

The win was a big lift for Exeter as they attempt to climb off the bottom of Pool 2 in the Heineken Champions Cup on December 8, when they entertain English rivals Gloucester Rugby.

Gloucester also triumphed in Round 7 of the Premiership, comprehensively defeating Pool 4 club Leicester Tigers 36-13 at Kingsholm on Friday night to lie third.

Two tries from Ollie Thorley, plus one apiece from fellow wing Matt Banahan, full-back Jason Woodward and prop Fraser Balmain sealed Gloucester’s biggest ever win over Leicester.