Foden flair helps Saints sail past stricken Sharks

Northampton 38 Sale 3
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The Independent Online

Ben Foden found an outlet for some of his frustration at his England omission by inspiring Northampton to victory against his former club. The full-back, who has been overlooked by England since he won a first cap against Italy in February, scored a try and proved a constant menace to a weakened Sale side.

Sale travelled without 11 first-team regulars and their replacement hooker, Marc Jones, was injured in the warm-up. The former Exeter prop Joe Horn-Smith was promoted from travelling reserve. Sale's problems increased when the scrum-half Chris Leck, centre Chris Bell and lock Dean Schofield were injured inside 25 minutes.

Saints' fly-half, Barry Everitt, kicked 14 first-half points as Sale put in a brave defensive effort. They held out for 30 minutes; Northampton twice got close. Paul Diggin was forced into touch after Foden's break, then Foden knocked on over the line as Bell put in a crunching tackle. Two penalties from Everitt against a Charlie Hodgson drop goal made it 6-3 before the home side's pressure told. Diggin rounded off a superb move, Foden again wriggling free on the left and the former Sale prop Barry Stewart helping to switch the direction of the Saints attack. Everitt kicked the conversion and two more penalties before the break.

Sale's Scotland full-back, Rory Lamont hobbled off early in the second half of his comeback, after three months out with an ankle injury, and the visitors' problems mounted when the wing David Doherty was sent to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on when Bruce Reihana tried to chase a cross-field kick.

Foden put Roger Wilson over, only for the try to be disallowed for a foot in touch, but Courtney Lawes soon sent Foden over for Northampton's second try. The Saints thought they had scored again when Soane Tonga'uiha battered his way to the line but the referee, Dean Richards, ruled that the ball had not been grounded.

Wilson, the No 8, picked up from the resulting scrum and scored. Stephen Myler kicked his second conversion. The Saints took a bonus point with the last play, the centre James Downey going over.

Northampton: B Foden; P Diggin (S Lamont, 44), J Ansbro, J Downey, B Reihana; B Everitt (S Myler, 55), L Dickson (C Mayor, 70); S Tonga'uiha, B Sharman (J Gray, 75), B Stewart (T Smith, 53), I Fernandez Lobbe (A Rae, 61), J Kruger, C Lawes (M Hopley, 68), R Wilson, N Best.

Sale: R Lamont (N McLeod, 44); S Kuadey, R Keil, C Bell (L Thomas, 19), D Doherty; C Hodgson (J Horn-Smith, 78), C Leck (W Cliff, 17); R O'Donnell (S Turner, 51), N Briggs, E Roberts, C Schofield (S Cox, 25), B Cockbain (D Tait, 57), C Jones, J Fernandez Lobbe (capt), C Fearns.

Referee: D Richards (Berkshire).