Ashton dives as Saints swallow Sale

Northampton Saints 53 Sale Sharks 24: Northampton score eight tries against floundering Sharks to consolidate fourth place in play-off race

A charge often levelled at Northampton – by their own supporters, on occasion – is that they are one-dimensional. But when scrum, line-out and maul are operating as well as this, why diversify? Sale will go down the same road, eventually, if Steve Diamond gets his way.

Time will tell whether the Saints' tactics will see off Ulster in the Heineken Cup quarter-final a week today – that match and a potential "home" semi-final to follow will be played in Milton Keynes – or opponents to come if they make the Premiership play-offs. With three successive wins, they have righted a list in their form and consolidated fourth place. Only one of their England quintet was not required to go the distance – the hooker and club captain, Dylan Hartley, had the fourth quarter off – but this was an afternoon for the collective, not the individual.

Just as well, given the headlines around both clubs in the build-up. Police sources said yesterday that Northampton's England full-back, Ben Foden, had accepted a caution for causing criminal damage after an alleged altercation with a taxi driver in London early on Monday morning. Jim Mallinder, Saints' director of rugby, said the matter was closed, with Foden having apologised to the police and the club, and the Rugby Football Union not expected to take further action. Foden played well in the second-half period when Saints took advantage of the sending-off of Sale's hooker, Neil Briggs, for a daft second yellow card. The visitors were probably more inconvenienced by their midweek hassles: a four-month ban for the prop Karena Wihongi, for taking a stimulant.

Northampton had a try bonus point by the 38th minute and there were eight penalties against Sale in the first 15 minutes: for the front row standing up, for mauls being pulled down – you get the picture. Steve Myler, the Northampton fly-half, ignored shots at the posts and allowed his forwards to take the lead.

"You always hope the scrum and maul is going to be a decisive factor," said Mallinder. "When your pack is in such control it makes sense to keep the pressure on."

Charlie Hodgson, kicked a 45-metre penalty for an early Sale lead, and then kicked penalties after 30 and 32 minutes. They made it 19-16 to Northampton after Hodgson had converted Marc Jones's try – the replacement hooker was on while Briggs was in the sin-bin for offside at a ruck.

Sale lost their Wales scrum-half, Dwayne Peel, concussed in the 13th minute and conceded tries after eight, 13 and 18 minutes. Lee Dickson tapped and wriggled over for the first, Chris Ashton unleashed a swallow dive for the second and a penalty try came when Peel's replacement, Will Cliff, put an illegal boot in to a back-pedalling, seven-man Sale scrum.

Brian Mujati's bonus-point try, breaking through a line-out, came just before the interval and though Sale's Wame Lewaravu galumphed to the corner four minutes into the second half, there was a scrap going on elsewhere which cost Briggs his dismissal, for charging Courtney Lawes in the back. At the other end, at 26-21, Myler went for goal, for security. Then Saints cut loose, with Tom Wood scoring his first try for the club and another penalty try arriving, for a collapsed maul.

Shane Geraghty and Bruce Reihana came on for Myler and Diggin and Reihana scored within 30 seconds, when Geraghty ran a wraparound and Foden made the link. A mighty tackle by Lawes led to a Sale knock-on and a scrum on their own line. With a shove, a left to right run by Foden that was well held by Chris Bell and a recycle to Phil Dowson, Northampton had their eighth try.

Northampton Saints B Foden; C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, P Diggin (B Reihana, 68); S Myler (S Geraghty, 62), L Dickson (S Commins, 63); S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 62), D Hartley (capt; B Sharman, 62), B Mujati (T Mercey, 57), C Lawes, C Day (M Sorenson, 62), C Clark (P Dowson, 52), R Wilson, T Wood.

Sale Sharks N Macleod; B Cohen, C Bell, K Tonetti (I Thornley, 72), M Cueto (capt); C Hodgson (R Miller, 71), D Peel (W Cliff, 12); L Imiolek (A Croall, 60), N Briggs, H Thomas (J Forster, 60), C Jones, W Lewaravu (N Rouse, 71), J Gaskell (M Jones, 18-28), S Koyamaibole (N McMillan, 60), D Seymour (M Jones, 50).

Referee D Rose (Warwickshire).

Northampton Saints

Tries: Dickson, Ashton, Penalty 2, Mujati, Wood, Reihana, Dowson

Cons: Myler 5

Pen: Myler

Sale Sharks

Tries: Jones, Lewaravu

Con: Hodgson

Pens: Hodgson 4

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk