Jim Mallinder declared himself ‘chuffed’ with Saints’ first-half showing in Friday night’s 27-16 win at Sale.
But the boss says his side have plenty to work on after squandering the chance to claim a bonus point at the Salford City Stadium.
Saints surged into a 27-3 half-time lead, putting the struggling Sharks to the sword with tries from Jamie Elliott, Soane Tonga’uiha and Tom May.
Ryan Lamb also chipped in with 12 points, but Sale, who are bottom of the Aviva Premiership, responded in the second half to reduce the arrears.
Saints failed to score a single point during the final 40 minutes and Mallinder, though happy with the win, knows his men must improve ahead of the crucial upcoming Heineken Cup double-header against Ulster.
“I’m very, very chuffed, not just that we were 27-3 up but with the way we’re playing, which is the way you should play when you come away from home,” said the director of rugby.
“The second half was a disappointment, but we’re winning games. We’ve won the last three now so we’ve got a bit of momentum.
“But we know we’ve got Ulster back to back now and we know that if we play like we did in the second half, we’ll get beaten.”
Sale and Saints scrapped it out amid a backdrop of fog, with one side of the pitch barely visible from the other.
But Mallinder was in no mood to complain about the conditions and he felt his men coped well with the visibility worries.
“I’m very happy to come up here in difficult conditions and win,” he said. “I’m slightly disappointed in the second half performance.
“In the first half we were very good, we dominated the game. Our scrum was on top, our driving lineout and our maul were very good.
“We defended well and therefore took our opportunities at the right times and we talked about doing the same things in the second half and we didn’t do that.
“We relaxed a little bit and a bit of credit to Sale: they came back into the game and put us under pressure, so we’re disappointed with the second half but we got the win and that’s important away from home.
And he added: “There were difficulties there (with the fog), with the ball going into the lights, but the players didn’t complain. It was the same for both sides so no complaints there.”