Saints sail to victory against Sharks
Tries from Ben Foden, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell helped Saints give their supporters an early Christmas present with a 24-5 win against Sale Sharks at Franklin's Gardens.
And it could have been even better for Jim Mallinder’s men, had scrum-half Nic Groom not had a try disallowed in both halves.
Stephen Myler added nine points with the boot for Saints, who will now head to Gloucester on New Year’s Day on the back of a welcome Aviva Premiership victory.
Sale struggled to produce much of a response at the Gardens, but Denny Solomona’s acrobatic effort in the corner was an eye-catching moment for the away side.
Saints had gone into the game on the back of a 60-13 evisceration at Leinster on the previous Saturday, but they got off to a flying start in Northampton.
Full-back Foden spotted a gap and charged over the line for his first score of the season, with Myler adding the conversion from the touchline to a backdrop of roars.
Saints thought they had scored again almost immediately as Louis Picamoles ripped the ball from the Sharks and Groom picked up the pieces to finish the move off.
But after initially awarding the try, referee Greg Garner went to the TMO and saw that the ball had been played forward from Ken Pisi to Groom and the score was ruled out.
There was plenty of huff and puff during the next 20 minutes, but Saints eventually got the second try they were after as Sale were wide open from a lineout and Wood scored.
Myler again added the extras and Saints had a strangely large points buffer, leading 14-0 with nine minutes of the half remaining.
Sale were hit by a sin-binning before the break as Mike Phillips was punished for a neck roll on Alex Waller, who was making his 200th Saints appearance.
The 14-0 scoreline at half-time was perhaps not too surprising considering Sale had been held to three first-half points or fewer during five of their past eight away league matches.
But Saints’ performance had been positive and they would play the formative stages of the second half with a man advantage.
However, Sale saw the sin-bin period out well, even putting pressure on Saints, with the home side doing well to stop the Sharks just short.
When Phillips did return to the field, Myler sent a tricky penalty chance just wide of the posts as Saints started to step things up.
Groom saw a second try of the night disallowed as he failed to get enough downward pressure on the ball before it squirmed from his grasp.
But Myler landed a penalty soon after and Sale still looked to have no response, proceeding to butcher a big chance with numbers to the left.
However, the away side, wearing fluorescent yellow, managed to find a spark as Solomona finished superbly in the corner.
The conversion missed by a mile and Saints still boasted a 12-point lead with 14 minutes of the match remaining.
And after Sale tried to play out of defence with the clock having gone dead, Burrell charged over the line via the post to get his first score of the campaign.
Myler converted again as Saints ended a four-match losing streak, condemning Sale to their seventh consecutive loss in all competitions.
Saints: Foden; K Pisi, Burrell, Hanrahan, Estelles; Myler, Groom; A Waller (E Waller 64), Haywood, Brookes (Hill 64); Lawes, Day (Ratuniyarawa 70); Wood (c) (Gibson 70), Harrison, Picamoles.
Sale Sharks: Haley; Solomona, James, Leota, Charnley; MacGinty (Arscott 68), Phillips (Mitchell 58); Harrison (Flynn 58), Webber, Aulika (Longbottom 55); Evans (Beaumont 40), Ostrikov (Mills 58); Neild; Lund (c) (Seymour 58), Ioane.
Referee: Greg Garner