Ruthless Saints rout Sale
April 20, 2013
Northampton put Sale to the sword
Northampton ran in seven tries as they thrashed Sale Sharks 47-7 at Franklin's Gardens to secure their place in the end-of-season play-offs.
Jamie Elliott and James Wilson score a brace of tries each with Luther Burrell, Lee Dickson and Tom Wood also going over.
Sale made seven changes to the side that beat Gloucester last week seemingly aiming to get as many English qualified players into the side to bump up their bonus from the RFU and Northampton took full advantage.
The young Sharks side actually made an impressively composed start with four minutes of possession and numerous phases ending with Tom Brady being held up on the line by Ben Foden.
But it was downhill from then on for the visitors as the Saints forwards quickly responded, imposing themselves on the game to set up an attack where a great offload from Burrell looked to have put Elliott in the corner only for Brady to shove him into touch.
An earlier penalty, though, saw Stephen Myler give Northampton a 3-0 lead after 12 minutes and he added a second two minutes later. Sale had picked one of the youngest front rows seen in the Premiership, with 21-year-old tight-head Henry Thomas the elder statesmen alongside hooker Tommy Taylor and Ross Harrison, but they were taking a battering in the scrum against Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati, who were playing their last games at Franklin's Gardens before moving to Racing Metro.
A scrum penalty sent Northampton on their way to the first try of the game, with Burrell, against his former club, breaking off a ruck in the 22 before Wood stepped through the heavily outnumbered Sale line to score. Myler converted to make it 13-0 after 23 minutes.
Four minutes later Saints could have had a second but GJ Van Velze dropped Ken Pisi's pass 15 metres from the try-line before Pisi put a foot in touch just a metre shy of scoring. The home side finally touched down when Lee Dickson tapped a penalty on the 22 and went round David Seymour to dive into the corner. Myler's conversion went over off the post to leave Saints 20-0 in front.
Try number three came four minutes later when Burrell touched down. It was a sweet moment for the inside centre against the club he left last summer as he followed up Tom May's two kicks ahead to dive on the ball.
Northampton thought they had got their bonus point when Samu Manoa dived over, but referee Luke Pearce went upstairs and the TMO disallowed it for obstruction by Mujati earlier in the move. But on 56 minutes Saints sealed their place in the Premiership play-offs when Elliott slipped down the left touchline to score from a turnover set up by great work from Courtney Lawes, who sacked a lineout drive five metres from Sale's try-line to top a performance full of power and excellent tackling.
Elliott scored a second when a cracking cross-field kick from Ryan Lamb bounced into his arms, allowing Martin Roberts to send Wilson over with a lovely flat pass. Replacement centre Wilson scored a second thanks to a nice scissors move with Lamb, before Sale ended the game with a consolation try from James Gaskell, converted by Danny Cipriani.
Jamie Elliott scored twice against Sale © Getty Images
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder refused to get carried away with the result. He said: "We won't get carried away with this win. We have had some good results recently, but we were well beaten against Leicester and we won't forget that. Having said that we have seen the top teams lose recently and a semi-final is a one-off game. We know it is going to be hard, because this season we have struggled against the top sides, but we have got a chance and that is all you need."
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond denied the young side he sent out was anything to do with gaining more money through playing more English qualified players. "We have hit our quota already," said Diamond. "It is nothing to do with that. It was about getting some experience, to come to a place like Northampton. We have had a hard season. Since Christmas we have had to psychologically get them up for every game and we have won seven of the 10. Today was just one push too far, we just couldn't keep up with them. Our young front row got taught a lesson, which is good for them, they will certainly be better for it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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