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Match report: Sale Sharks 20 Northampton Saints 24

27 Jan 2018
Match report: Sale Sharks 20 Northampton Saints 24

NAFI Tuitavake’s last-gasp try kept Northampton Saints alive and kicking in their bid to clinch an Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-final berth.

The 29-year-old centre went over at the death to help the Saints claim a  24-20 triumph following a dramatic encounter at the AJ Bell Stadium.

George North was due to make his first Saints start since October but the visitors were forced into a late change shortly before kick-off, Tom Collins coming in to replace the Wales winger.

For all their endeavour, both teams struggled to gain a foothold in the game and both try-lines remained unbreached right through until the half-hour mark.

The deadlock was finally broken by young Sharks No. 8 Sam Moore, the England Under-19 international springing over the line after the hosts had finally conjured up a way past the Saints.

On the stroke of half-time, Will Addison’s penalty put the home team 8-0 up but Northampton awoke from their slumber in the second period.

Despite a man disadvantage following Tom Stephenson’s yellow card, the Saints flipped the scoreline on its head in spectacular style, with Cobus Reinach at the heart of their comeback.

Firstly, the scrum-half turned on the afterburners as he helped Northampton blitz down the right flank in the 47th minute, Ken Pisi finishing things off and James Grayson adding the extras.

Then, five minutes later, Reinach was heavily involved as the Saints went the length of the field and forced Ben Nutley over.

Hitting back, Sale reduced the deficit as Kieran Wilkinson’s cross-field kick led to Luke James crashing over to make it 14-13 but a Grayson penalty gave the visitors a four-point cushion.

However, Sale were far from done and with 10 minutes to go, they got their noses back in front, laying siege to the Saints line before forcing their way over with a fourth penalty advantage in a row, Marc Jones credited with the finishing touch.

Josh Charnley’s try-saving tackle on Michael Paterson helped safeguard the Sharks’ lead as the clock ticked down but Northampton weren’t to be denied.

In added time, a patient last-ditch offensive paid off as Grayson fed Tuitavake to smash through for the clincher, the former converting to round things off.

Attendance: 2,500

This year’s Anglo-Welsh Cup Final will be at the iconic Kingsholm Stadium, home of Gloucester Rugby, on Sunday 18 March. To buy tickets and be part of an unforgettable occasion, click here

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