Dylan Hartley has warned Saints they will get a ‘hiding’ against Ulster if they replicate Friday’s second-half showing at Sale.
Hartley helped his side shoot into a 27-3 lead against the struggling Sharks at the Salford City Stadium, only to see them lose power in the final 40 minutes.
Sale won the second half 13-0 as Saints too their foot off the gas and failed to pick up the fourth try needed for a bonus point.
They now move on to a decisive Heineken Cup double-header against pool 4 rivals Ulster, starting with the Irish side’s visit to Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.
And Hartley has emphasised the need for a complete performance against the pool-toppers and last season’s runners-up.
“There will be a few questions to be asked about the try-scoring bonus point come Monday morning, we’re a bit disappointed about (not getting) that,” said the skipper.
“But we’ve got to look at the bigger picture. We’re sitting nice in the league and we’ve got a big fixture against Ulster next week so that stands us in good stead.
“If we don’t play for the full 80 minutes we’re going to get a hiding against Ulster, so we have to be better.”
Saints’ win at Sale helped them strengthen their grip on a top-four spot in the Premiership and maintained momentum ahead of a decisive December.
And despite his disappointment with the second-half showing, Hartley was happy just to keep the ball rolling with a third successive victory.
“Any game of rugby I’ll take four points, regardless of how it looks,” said the England hooker.
“But we knew we could have done more with that game.
“We played for 40 minutes, we played very well in the first half, took our opportunities and found something that was working i.e. the driving maul and the scrum.
“I’m not sure what happened in the second half so we’ll have to watch the video.”