Amidst the eerie environs and swirling mists at Salford City Stadium, Sharks found themselves 20-3 down with little over half an hour gone. Lamb and Macleod exchanged early penalties and it seemed that the Sharks' tactics evolved round booming kicked clearances from full back Shepherd.
Two tries within five minutes in the white mist on the far side from the main stand rocked local hopes. The first, on 18 minutes, was finished by left winger Elliott and converted by Lamb. Five minutes later, another dynamic burst turned out to be prop Tonga'uiha heading for the home line. Lamb again added the extras.
The Saints' continual pressure was further rewarded after 33 minutes when Lamb added a drop goal.
Five minutes before half time, Macleod received a pass popped up by number 8 Richie Vernon at scrum time and went on a dangerous run, but the move fizzled out. For those located in a point of reasonable visibility, there was the apparition of Andy Powell attempting a drop goal which barely travelled five metres.
Over ambitious handling in the first half's final minute proved disastrous for Sale Sharks, with Tom May streaking through to score. Lamb converted for a half time scoreline of 3-27.
Sharks showed considerably more spirit during the second half, starting with interval replacement Will Cliff combining with Cameron Shepherd to mount a threatening attack. The initial move didn't penetrate the visiting defence, but the second phase proved fruitful, with Rob Miller scoring a try on 44 minutes.
Then followed two bursts by unindentifiable shadows, followed by darts from Amesbury and Cueto. A 50th minute penalty from Macleod further reduced the arrears, but two troublesome scrums, both penalised by the referee, halted the Sharks' impetus. Saints exerted pressure in a rare foray on the hour, but the phase ended with a penalty to the Sharks.
A steady stream of replacements by both sides coincided with a featureless spell of play in the gloom, but the game veered towards its end with the home side in the ascendancy. Cueto and Uys combined well, but Elliott smothered the kick ahead, Cueto injuring himself at the same time. With two minutes to go,a Sharks' lineout drive was successful, Tommy Taylor credited with a forwards' try. There was still time for a popular charging run down the middle from Vadim Cobilas, but the scoring opportunity was a long way off and time ran out.
Sharks' new rugby supremo John Mitchell said afterwards, "Northampton's forward pack was outstanding in the first half. The determining factor was that their lineout drives were very effective. Our backs lived off crumbs in that first half.
"Our second half showed better character and built some pressure. No-one said it was going to be easy; the forwards had a torrid time tonight. In the second half, we had more of an attacking platform. We get frustrated easily and have got to learn to be more patient."
Scoring: (Sharks first) 0-3, 3-3, 3-10, 3-17, 3-20, 3-27 (Half Time) 8-27, 11-27, 16-27.
Sale Sharks: 15.Cameron Shepherd, 14.Charlie Amesbury, 13.Mark Cueto, 12.Sam Tuitupou, 11.Rob Miller, 10.Nick Macleod, 9.Dwayne Peel, 1.Ross Harrison, 2.Tommy Taylor, 3.Tony Buckley, 4.Richie Gray, 5.Kearnan Myall, 6.Andy Powell, 7.David Seymour (capt.), 8.Richie Vernon
Replacements: 16.Joe Ward (not used), 17.Eifion Lewis-Roberts for Harrison (62), 18. Vadim Cobilas for Buckley (62), 19.Fraser McKenzie for Myall (57), 20.James Gaskell for Powell (65), 21.Will Cliff for Peel (H/T), 22.Corne Uys for Tuitupou (25), 23.Will Addison for Cueto (74)
|Sale Sharks Score Card|
|Northampton Saints Score Card|