Northampton Saints vs Sale Sharks 23/24 Report

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21 Northampton Saints
17 Sale Sharks

Sat 30 Dec 3:05pm cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens Attendance: 0

Northampton Saints vs Sale Sharks

Northampton Saints went top of the Premiership after fighting back to beat Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens.

Both sides cancelled each other out in a dour first half, played in wet and gusty conditions, with Joe Carpenter’s score giving Sale a 7-0 half-time lead.

Luke Cowan-Dickie powered over to make it 14-0 before Saints hit back through George Furbank, only for George Ford’s drop goal made it 17-7.

Alex Mitchell’s try cut the gap before a penalty try sealed victory.

A fourth straight Premiership win – and sixth in all competitions – puts Saints a point ahead of Exeter at the top of a tightly-packed top six, but they will be unseated if Bath win at Leicester on Sunday. Sale stay in third place after a third defeat in five matches in all competitions.

The Sharks looked to be on course for a 10th league win of the season, but the introduction of Courtney Lawes and hooker Curtis Langdon breathed new life into Saints as the visitors finally ran out of steam.

Both sides kicked off separated by a single point knowing victory would propel them to the summit, but the opening half became a kicking exchange as Sale fly-half Ford and his opposite number Fin Smith probed for mistakes.

Ford was well off-target with an early penalty, while Smith’s kick for the posts was held up by the swirling wind after the Saints pack won notable back-to-back scrum penalties in a scoreless opening quarter.

The Sharks kicked for territory and defended brilliantly before showing their clinical side to convert their first chance three minutes before the break. Playing a penalty advantage, they spread the ball to the left where Rob du Preez sent full-back Carpenter through a gap to score.

Saints, who made eight changes to their starting XV, displayed more attacking intent after the break, with Ollie Sleightholme pushed into touch just a metre out following Tommy Freeman’s break, but Cowan-Dickie’s close-range finish and Ford’s second conversion quietened a sold-out Franklin’s Gardens.

The hosts finally breached the Sharks line with some quick play as Furbank ran a super line to bring the hosts back within a score.

Ford’s clever drop-goal opened up a 10-point lead, however, all but two of Saints’ nine matches this season have been decided by just a single score and this would be no different.

Northampton were right back in it when Mitchell pounced for his fifth Premiership try of the season after patient phases eventually ground down the Sharks grim resistance.

The hosts maintained their impetus and it ultimately proved irresistible when replacement prop Asher Opoku-Fordjour denied Furbank a second score, but from an offside position.

After a TMO review, the 19-year-old was sent to the sin bin and the penalty sneaked the Saints in front for the first time with 11 minutes left.

Sale mounted a response, but when a last-minute line-out in the Saints 22 was stolen, their race was run.

Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson:

“I thought our mentality and effort was outstanding tonight and you are not going to lose many games with that kind of mentality.

“We were in the fight, up for it, and probably had the game if not for some lost collisions and some discipline.

“There were 10 minutes after half-time when we seemed to be constantly on the back foot and they were making yards with every carry.

“We want to be on the front foot making collisions, otherwise you find yourself in the tumble dryer like we were for 20 minutes.”

Northampton: Furbank (capt), Freeman, Odendaal, Hutchinson, Sleightholme, Smith, Mitchell; Waller, Matavesi, Davison, Munga, Coles, Scott-Young, Pearson, Augustus.

Replacements: Langdon, Haffar, Hill, Moon, Lawes, Graham, Braley, Litchfield.

Sale: Carpenter, Roebuck, James, Rob du Preez, Reed, Ford, Warr; Harrison, Cowan-Dickie, Schonert, Wiese, Hill, van Rhyn, Curry (capt), Jean-Luc du Preez.

Replacements: Taylor, Onasanya, Opoku-Fordjour, Beaumont, Dugdale, Thomas, James, Veainu.

Sin-bin: Opoku-Fordjour (69).

Referee: Matthew Carley

Previous meetings

H Sunday
October 15th 2023

Salford Stadium
Gallagher Premiership
Sale Sharks
Northampton Saints
A Saturday
February 18th 2023

cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens
Gallagher Premiership
Northampton Saints
Sale Sharks
H Sunday
September 11th 2022

Salford City Stadium
Gallagher Premiership
Sale Sharks
Northampton Saints