Full-back Joe Carpenter scored a try brace as Sale Sharks underlined their EPCR Challenge Cup credentials by defeating Saracens 35-24 at the AJ Bell Stadium in the Gallagher Premiership on Sunday.

Sale visit Cardiff Rugby in the EPCR Challenge Cup Round of 16 on April 1 after dropping out of the Heineken Champions Cup and will fancy their chances of lifting the trophy for a third time.

Sunday’s victory over EPCR heavyweights Saracens was evidence of Sale’s immense quality and saw them move to within six points of the Premiership leaders.

The hosts were 16 points down with half an hour played but capitalised on a Saracens sin bin to send Carpenter over for his first score, which Rob du Preez converted, as he did for all five of Sale’s tries.

Sam James crossed moments before the break to reduce the deficit to five points, and Sale completed the turnaround 14 minutes into the second half as Carpenter notched his second.

Jono Ross extended Sale’s advantage on the hour mark and although Saracens pulled one try back to set up a nervy finish, a red card scuppered their progress and Jean-Luc du Preez rounded off the EPCR Challenge Cup outfit’s victory with a fifth score at the death.

Meanwhile, Racing 92, another huge side dropping out of the Heineken Champions Cup and into the EPCR Challenge Cup, fell just short in their domestic clash on Sunday, going down 39-35 at home to Stade Toulousain in the TOP 14.

The Parisian outfit ran the five-time EPCR champions close, however, with Max Spring, Wenceslas Lauret, Thomas Moukoro, Antoine Gibert and Vinaya Habosi all crossing while Finn Russell added 10 points from the tee.