Rugby Union: Sale sinners save Saints

Northampton 37 Manchester Sale 17
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The Independent Online
SALE ARE taking their time in coming to terms with the effects of the sin-bin. It may not have been the only reason for defeat at Saracens - when three of the side were shown white cards - but it almost certainly cost them this match at Franklin's Gardens, when Tom Beim and Pat Sanderson were sin-binned. Not that they can have any complaints, according to Northampton's director of rugby, Ian McGeechan. "In both cases Sale committed professional fouls," said McGeechan. "If you kill the game, you must accept the consequences."

Beim was sent to the changing room for a second technical offence. Within a minute of his departure, Saints made their numerical advantage count when David Dantiacq scored under the posts. Until then, the Northampton mid-field was in such a mess that it seemed unlikely they were capable of creating anything which might lead to a try.

John Devereux, who was making his first league start of the season, and Shane Howarth exposed the limitations of Dantiacq and Matt Allen so effectively that, even while Beim was serving his punishment, the Saints' defence went walkabout for Jan Machacek to score under the posts.

Sale then suffered another attack of attention deficit disorder and Sanderson received a white card for attempting to play the ball on the floor while in an offside position. So Sale were down to 14 men again.

By this stage of a mistake-ridden game, the Sale scrum were already in such dire straits that if the Saints backs had not squandered so much prime quality possession they would have been too far out of sight for Sale to do much about it. With Garry Pagel making life almost impossible for the Sale front row, Northampton were awarded a penalty try when the Sale scrum collapsed for the third time. That should have signalled the end for Sale; or at least the beginning of it.

But the Sale backs, where Barrie-Jon Mather made his league debut, returned to the offensive for Howarth to cut through the Saints' defence for a soft try. The conversion and a penalty followed, so Sale were only 20- 17 adrift.

Grayson's third penalty finally signalled Saints' intention not to let victory slip. Craig Moir pulled them clear with a well-worked try, and Matt Allen finished Sale off in injury time.

Northampton: N Beal; O Moir, D Dantiacq, M Allen, B Cohen; P Grayson, M Dawson; G Pagel, F Mendez (C Johnson, 61), M Hynes (M Volland, 77), T Rodber (G Seely, 75); R Metcalfe (J Phillips, 61), D Mackinnon, B Pountney, P Lam.

Sale: S Davidson; B-J Mather, S Howarth, J Devereux (C Yates, 72), T Beim; J Baxendell, R Smith (K Ellis, 67); P Winstanley (D Williamson, 75), S Diamond, A Smith, (D Bell, 67), S Raiwalui, C Murphy, P Angelsea, P Sanderson, J Machacek.

Referee: S Lander (Irby, Wirral.)