Northampton Saints 25 Sale Sharks 34: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

When Saints supporters flocked to Franklin's Gardens to shovel snow early on Saturday morning, they would have imagined their hard work being rewarded with a big display.

Sunday, 4th March 2018, 12:00 pm
Rob Horne scored Saints' second try against Sale (pictures: Sharon Lucey)

But the only big display was to come from the opposition as Sale Sharks secured their first win in Northampton since May 2006.

Proud home records have been tumbling during recent seasons with the likes of Bath and Wasps ending long losing streaks at the Gardens.

And Sale became the latest side to break their hoodoo - and in some style.

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We'll get to Saints' showing in a second, but the first thing that must be said about the shocking first period was that Sale played some slick rugby.

If the home side had scored one of the tries finished by Denny Solomona, praise would be due, and so should it be afforded to Sale, who defended solidly before the break and took their chances when they came.

But now to Saints, and that question that has been asked far too many times this season: just why can't the team get going from the start of the game?

So many times, Saints have fallen behind.

Api Ratuniyarawa started for Saints

During the dark days of late 2017, they fell behind and never recovered.

During the early part of 2018, they fell behind to the likes of Gloucester, Clermont Auvergne and London Irish and showed the spirit needed to win and paper over the cracks.

But against Sale, the cracks were just too big to be papered over.

They did produce another second-half response, but this time, it was too little, too late.

Campese Ma'afu tried to make things happen

Saints clearly have ability, as they showed when pushing Exeter all the way at Sandy Park seven days earlier.

But for reasons only those inside the dressing room know, they are often guilty of slacking off during matches and, at the top level, that can cost you dear.

And so it proved once again on Saturday.

But what made it worse - in fact, much, much worse - was the failure to match the immense efforts of those who made the game happen in the first place.

Mike Haywood did his best to drive his team on

Stadium staff worked all week and then overnight on Friday to make sure the players could strut their stuff.

But in the end, they, the Academy players and all the supporters who braved the cold to pitch in, could have been forgiven for wondering why they bothered.

Because this was yet another disappointing day in a season saturated with them.

The summer simply can't come soon enough for Saints.

They need to press the reset button and try to make things immeasurably better for next season.

Because although they have picked up a few wins in 2018, predominantly at home, this campaign as a whole has been one to forget.

Api Ratuniyarawa started for Saints

Supporters have not been given value for money as their side continues to stutter.

And though it is at least positive that there was a response on Saturday rather than no response at all, it is scant consolation when you consider another opportunity to bank Premiership

points has been missed.

How they rated...


Was given a tough time during the first half as Saints' defence struggled, but he got more of a chance to attack after the break... 4


Made one big charge down the right during the second half, but had a tough time defensively during the first period... 3


Once again, the Australian centre etched his name on the scoresheet and, once again, he was one of the better Saints performers... 6


Was forced off before Saints were able to produce their response and didn't have an easy first half, like many of his team-mates... 3


Tried to make things happen for Saints, frantically attempting to sidestep his former club, but without much success... 5


Provided a lovely pass for Horne's try and largely kicked well from the tee, but did miss one attempt and some of his kicking from hand didn't come off... 4


Didn't have too much to work with during the first half and his decision-making suffered with one kick costing Saints a good attacking position... 3


Once again, the prop thundered around the pitch, helping to blast a couple of holes in the defence and showing he was desperate to help to turn things around... 5


Played for the full 80 minutes, continually trying to drive his team on without much reward... 5


Tried to carry the fight to Sale on a few occasions, but they were up to the task of stopping the prop... 4


Wasn't able to get his hands free to get the ball moving quickly as Sale were well aware of his threat and stopped him well... 4


Had to leave the field inside just four minutes as he took a knock while attempting to stop a Sale surge


Did not get any real chance to make an impact as he was forced off with a groin injury early on


Scored his first Saints try and did all he could to compete in contact, but Sale were strong... 5


Can never be accused of not giving his all as even when Saints were suffering during the first period, he refused to give up... 5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)


Kick-started the Saints revival by scoring just after half-time and put plenty of effort in to back up his solid display at Exeter... 6

JAMIE GIBSON (for Wood 8)

Wasn't able to get a real grip on the game as Sale won the back row battle during the first half... 5

COBUS REINACH (for Groom 51)

Helped Saints to step the tempo up and his pace helped his side to to cause Sale some problems... 6

STEPHEN MYLER (for Burrell 53)

Was making his 200th Premiership performance and helped to steady the Saints ship during this cameo... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks)

Campese Ma'afu tried to make things happen
Mike Haywood did his best to drive his team on