Jim Mallinder applauded his Northampton Saints side for producing their best away display of the season to claim a bonus-point 32-12 win over Sale Sharks.
Saints moved within three points off fifth-place Leicester Tigers after Ethan Waller ran over for Northampton’s fourth try in the 81st-minute at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Earlier tries from Ken Pisi, Michael Paterson and Mikey Haywood had laid the platform, while Sharks Josh Charnley got over for his first Aviva Premiership Rugby try in the first half.
Bryn Evans’ 69th-minute try gave Sale an outside chance, but Stephen Myler controlled the closing stages perfectly and replacement prop Waller surged over to leave Mallinder’s troops high on confidence ahead of Round 18’s East Midlands Derby.
“We got our game plan right,” Mallinder said. “I thought our half-backs were very good with Stephen Myler in particular putting us into some good positions on the field.
“We defended very well and it was the icing on the cake getting the bonus point at the end.
“It is (our best away performance), without a doubt. It is hard to come here and that was a good win. We closed down their threats and they did try to play probably a little bit too much, but their kicking game didn’t really threaten us.
“Our back three coped very well in the conditions.”
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond held his hands up and conceded his side were taught a lesson by Saints fly-half Stephen Myler in the second half.
To our @SaleSharksRugby fans, we apologise for not delivering tonight . We were 2nd best and will be better, season isn’t over yet 🤘🏼
— Byron McGuigan (@ByronMacG) March 3, 2017
Sale stay tenth in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table after back-to-back defeats to Sale and Saracens following their win against league leaders Wasps last month.
“Second half, fair play to them, Stephen Myler gave us a masterclass on how to keep us in our own half, and we couldn’t deal with it,” he said.
“It doesn’t happen often down here but we got out-enthused, which I’m not happy with – there’s one or two of our lads who’ve got to look at themselves – if they have aspirations of playing at the highest level, they’ve got to do it here.
“As a collective the place looked leaderless – we lost Will Addison and it looked like nobody could take the game by the scruff of the neck, so I’m really disappointed with that.”
Tries: Charnley, Evans
Tries: Pisi, Paterson, Haywood, Waller
Cons: Myler 3
Pen: Myler 2
Sale Sharks: Haley (McGuigan 57); Solomona, Leota, Jennings, Charnley; James, Phillips (Stringer 25); Harrison (Flynn 68), Webber, Aulika (Longbottom 68); Evans, Mills (Nott 57); Neild (B Curry 59), Lund (T Curry 49), Beaumont (c).
Northampton Saints: Tuala; K Pisi, Tuitavake (Estelles 61), Mallinder, Foden (c); Myler, Groom (Dickson 71); A Waller (E Waller 71), Haywood (Clare 75), Brookes (Hill 61); Paterson (Ratuniyarawa 75), Craig; Gibson, Clark (Dickinson 66), Harrison.
Referee: Tom Foley