Sale Sharks maintained their 100 percent GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP home record with a 34-14 win over Northampton at Edgeley Park.
However the Premiership leaders were made to work hard against a Saints side missing the likes of Carlos Spencer and Ben Cohen.
Sale scored three tries through wing Chris Mayor, lock Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Sebastien Bruno, with the boot of fly-half Charlie Hodgson doing the rest.
The home side went ahead on six minutes when, following a break by man-mountain Andrew Sheridan, a penalty offence by substitute Chris Budgen was slotted by Hodgson.
Hodgson was instrumental in Sale’s tenth-minute opening try after his visionary crossfield kick fell comfortably into the arms of Mayor who sprinted over to score.
Another Hodgson penalty moments later made the score 14-0, but a rare Northampton counter-attack from winger Paul Diggin resulted in a Bruce Reihana penalty putting the first Saints points on the board.
The visitors could then have scored a try of their own when Sale were penalised for not releasing the ball. The resulting 47-metre penalty saw Reihana hit the post, with Sebastien Chabal knocking on the rebound.
But Northampton were unable to make the opportunity pay, with Damien Browne eventually ruled offside.
The Saints were enjoying greater possession and again had an opportunity to score, but Ben Lewitt and Luke Myring’s drive over the line failed to result in a grounded ball. Nevertheless, the resulting penalty advantage was kicked by Reihana.
With the rain now pouring, Sale were once again enjoying possession. And with John Rudd ruled offside in the 28th minute, Hodgson again converted.
Reihana failed with a long-range penalty but, with Sharks’ inside centre Robert Todd sin-binned, the full-back then managed to convert and make the half-time score 17-9.
Todd came back into the fray, and with the sin-binning of Saints’ Browne saw the advantage immediately swing the other way. And resulting Sale pressure paid off, with Lobbe going over.
Northampton hit back as Myring went over to pull Northampton back to within 10 points, before Reihana again hit the post with his conversion attempt.
Hodgson grabbed another penalty just after the hour, before a rolling maul saw Sharks’ substitute Bruno score to effectively seal the win.
Following an excellent Hodgson conversion, the home side were looking for a fourth try and resulting bonus point.
Saints threw themselves into the remaining minutes but they were well met with some solid Sale defence, who were unable to claim a fourth try and the bonus point.