Sale Sharks made the journey down on Thursday afternoon to avoid the Friday traffic and to give themselves the best preparation for the game at Franklins Gardens. Both sides went into the game with 2/3 records and the Saints were still smarting from their defeat at Gloucester the previous weekend.
Sharks hadn't won at Northampton since May 2006 when they defeated Saints 36-34 to seal pole position in the Premiership.
Sharks fans had the journey from hell on the day with traffic congestion for 40 miles due to a police incident.
The conditions for the game were excellent, good weather an excellent pitch and very little breeze.
Sharks won two penalties in quick succession and Danny Cipriani opted to kick the second one, but his attempt was well wide from 50 metres.
Northampton weathered the storm and took the lead on 14 minutes through former Sharks centre Luther Burrell who scored a good try. Myler converted and Saints led 7-0.
Northampton continued to build and were camped in the Sharks 22 for several minutes with lineouts and scrums. The defence finally cracked on 22 minutes when Saints new signing George North had the simplest of touchdowns in the corner. Stephen Myler lined up the conversion from the touchline but his attempt was off target 12-0.
Sharks tried to stem the flow and put together some promising moves but Saints went further ahead through George Pisi on 26 minutes. Myler converted and Sharks were in trouble at 19-0 down.
Sale knew they had to score next and mounted a challenge which ended in Callum Clark being sin binned. Sharks tried to use the man advantage but conceded a turnover on the Northampton line.
Sharks finally crossed the whitewash on the stroke of half time when Danny Cipriani put Mark Cueto in for a try. Mark's third this season and 81st in the Premiership. Danny converted the try to give the Sharks some hope with a half time score of Northampton 19 Sale Sharks 7
Sharks started the second half with a man advantage (Clark still in the sin bin) and had the opportunity to reduce the arrears with a penalty but Cipriani's 22 metre kick sailed wide.
On 50 minutes Sale made four substitutions with a new front row as well as Johnathan Mills who replaced Kirill Kulemin.
Northampton crossed the line on 54 minutes and the referee opted to involve the TMO as it looked as though a Saints player had assisted lee Dickson crossing the line unfairly. The TMO awarded the try which gave Saints the bonus point and with Myler's conversion the home side led 26-7.
Saints winger Jamie Elliott looked to have scored the try of the game on 58 minutes when he kicked ahead of Tom Arscott, collected the bouncing ball and touched down. The TMO deemed the ball had hit the touchline and the try was disallowed.
Referee David Rose went to the TMo again on the hour after Dickinson made a burst upfield. Several forwards were involved in the passing phase before Phil Dowson touched down. This time Saints got the decision and led 31-7. Myler converted and the losing bonus point for Sharks was now well out of reach at 33-7.
Sharks brought on Nathan Fowles and Joe Ford with 12 minutes and these two youngsters were followed by Andrei Ostrikov who replaced skipper Dan Braid.
Sale tried in vain to salvage something from the game and a clever chip ahead by Joe Ford created an opening but sadly Rob Miller knocked on. On 75 minutes Nathan Fowles was held up close to the line. Play was brought back for a penalty. Ford kicked for touch and from the lineout the Sharks pack pushed Saints back over their own line and Marc Jones touched down. Joe Ford converted 33-14.
Tom Arscott (off 61mins), Rob Miller, Mark Cueto, Andy Forsyth, Tom Brady, Danny Cipriani (off 67mins), Will Cliff (off 67mins), Eifion Lewis Roberts (off 50mins), Tommy Taylor (off 50mins), Vadim Cobilas (off 50mins), Kirill Kulemin (off 50mins), Michael Paterson, Dan Braid (off 69mins), David Seymour, Mark Easter
Replacements: Marc Jones (on for Taylor 50mins), Ross Harrison (on for Lewis Roberts 50mins), Henry Thomas (on for Cobilas 50mins), Jonathan Mills (on for Kulemin 50mins), Andrei Ostrikov (on for Braid 69mins), Nathan Fowles (on for Cliff 67mins), Joe Ford (on for Cipriani 67mins), Phil McKenzie (on for Arscott 61mins)
Scoring Sequence (Saints first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 19-5, 19-7 (Half Time) 24-7, 26-7, 31-7, 33-7, 33-12, 33-14 (Full Time)
|Northampton Saints Score Card|
|Sale Sharks Score Card|