Northampton Saints booked a place in the Aviva Premiership play-off semi-finals for the fourth successive season with a resounding 47-7 win against Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens.
Jim Mallinder’s men knew four points would be enough to guarantee a top-four finish and they had the job done by half-time thanks to three first-half tries.
Tom Wood, Lee Dickson and Luther Burrell all cashed in as Sale were blown away, going in at the break 25-0 down.
And it didn’t get much easier in the second half as Saints stepped on the gas to claim four more tries, two apiece from Jamie Elliott and replacement James Wilson.
James Gaskell did get a try with the final play of the game for the Sharks, Danny Cipriani converting, but it was barely any consolation for the away side.
Saints started how they meant to go on as fly-half Stephen Myler, who ended up with 12 points to his name, slotted two early penalties.
Sale were struggling to get out of their own half and the first try of the game wasn’t far away as Wood touched down for Saints following determined work from Ken Pisi.
It was 13-0 and Northampton were doing all the running and a few minutes later Dickson was allowed to dive over from a quick tap and go, with Myler adding the extras.
Burrell, against his former club, was next to cash in, touching down from Tom May’s clever grubber kick, but Myler this time hit the wrong side of the post with the conversion.
Still, Saints had a huge 25-0 lead and they were closing in on a bonus point and a place in the play-offs.
They thought they had the fourth try early in the second half as Samu Manoa, on for the injured Christian Day, went over, but the big American was denied by the TMO.
Sale altered their pack, bringing on Aston Croall and Josh Beaumont in a bid to stem the tide, while Jonny Leota was doing his best to bring some crash, bang and wallop to the game.
But Saints weren’t fazed and, with less than 25 minutes to go, they had their fourth try and the bonus point as Elliott flew over.
The wing added Northampton’s fifth and his second soon after before replacement James Wilson also doubled up.
Gaskell dived over late on for Sale, Cipriani taking their tally to a meagre seven, but Saints had claimed a convincing win that will stand them in good stead for a title push.