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Sharks gobble up Northampton Saints Sharks gobble up Northampton Saints

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Sharks gobble up Northampton Saints

Hodgson repeatedly carved Northampton open with his clever distribution and twice got winger Steve Hanley over for tries with pin-point passes as the Sharks completed a league double which consolidates third place in the table.

Saints were hit by the late withdrawals of Bruce Reihana, Shane Drahm and Marc Stcherbina who all failed late fitness tests – and they were eventually over-powered in a largely one-sided second half. The loss leaves the Midlanders in deep relegation trouble.

Academy product Paul Diggin made a useful full debut at full-back in a re-shuffled Northampton back division, but Ben Cohen failed to make an impact after switching from wing to centre.

Saints' pack was at least bolstered by the return of former Springbok lock Selborne Boome, who made his towering presence felt in the line-out on his first appearance since mid-October.

Sale made the ideal start when rampaging runs from front-row pair Andrew Sheridan and Andy Titterrell set up the position from which Hodgson sent Hanley over for his first try after only four minutes.

A couple of Grayson penalties kept Saints in touch, and they went in front for the only time on 24 minutes when captain Steve Thompson was driven over for his side's sole try of the first half.

Buoyed by the score, Northampton enjoyed their best period of the game and ought to have made more of a superb breakaway move by Andrew Blowers and Matt Lord.

The latter performed wonders to deny Mark Cueto after he cleared up a Hodgson kick into space, and the visitors were out of luck when the next try went to Sale against the run of play.

A crunching tackle from impressive Scotland flanker Jason White forced the ball out of Blowers' grasp, and Magnus Lund gratefully pounced to romp unopposed 60 metres to the line.

But Grayson kept his side's score ticking over with a drop goal and added a third penalty in first-half injury time to cut the deficit to 20-17.

Hanley fluffed a try-scoring opportunity within three minutes of the re-start when he dropped Jos Baxendell's inside pass. But he made amends shortly afterwards by scything through for his second try after taking another accurate pass from Hodgson.

The fly-half duly converted and kicked a third penalty on 55 minutes after he had been late-tackled by Darren Fox.

Sale looked to have secured the bonus point when the outstanding White twice raced into open space – but he was brought down just short of the line.

The home side persevered – and with Hodgson ignoring the chance of another kick at goal, prop Stuart Turner was driven over after fellow replacement Chris Day had won the line-out.

Northampton finished a well-beaten side but they at least had the final say when replacement Grant Seeley finished off a neat break by Mark Tucker to grab a consolation try, to which Grayson added his fourth goal from five attempts.

The scorers:

For Sale Sharks:Tries: Hanley 2, Lund, TurnerCons: Hodgson 4Pens: Hodgson 3

For Northampton Saints:Try: Thompson, SeelyPens: Grayson 3Drop: Grayson

The teams:

Sale Sharks: 15 Jason Robinson, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Jos Baxendell, 12 Robert Todd, 11 Steve Hanley, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Bryan Redpath, 8 Sebastien Chabal, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Jason White, 5 Dean Schofield, 4 Chris Jones, 3 Stuart Turner, 2 Sebastien Bruno, 1 Andrew Sheridan.Replacements: (from) Barry Stewart, Martin Halsall, Andy Titterrell, Chris Day, John Carter, Richard Wigglesworth, Mike Hercus, Chris Mayor, Chris Rhys Jones, Peter Anglesea and Pierre Caillet.

Northampton Saints: 15 Bruce Reihana, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Chris Hyndman, 12 Marc Stcherbina, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Shane Drahm, 9 Johnny Howard, 8 Ross Beattie, 7 Darren Fox, 6 Andrew Blowers, 5 Matt Lord, 4 Selborne Boome, 3 Simon Emms, 2 Steve Thompson (captain), 1 Tom Smith, Replacements: 16 Johan van Wyk, 17 Brett Sturgess, 18 Damien Browne, 19 Mark Soden, 20 Ben Jones, 21 Paul Grayson, 22 Paul Diggin

Referee: Sean DaveyTouch judges: Brian Campsall, Stuart TerheegeAssessor: Colin HighTelevision match official: Dave Matthews

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