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Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sale Sharks 7-15 Northampton Saints

Sale (0) 7
Try: Cohen Con: Hodgson
Northampton (12) 15
Tries: Diggin, Ashton Con: Reihana Pen: Geraghty

Northampton's Bruce Reihana is tackled by Sale's Jonny Kennedy
Northampton's Bruce Reihana gets past Sale's Jonny Kennedy

Sale suffered their eighth successive defeat in all competitions to slip to the foot of the Premiership as Saints kept up the pressure at the top.

Stephen Myler missed four first-half penalties for the visitors before Paul Diggin crossed before the break.

Chris Ashton started and finished a neat move for his 12th Premiership try of the season before replacement Shane Geraghty's penalty sealed victory.

Ben Cohen scored for Sale but Charlie Hodgson missed a bonus-point penalty.

That missed kick in the last minute may prove costly for the Sharks, who are now firmly in a relegation dogfight.

With Leeds beating Saracens, the 2006 Premiership winners now find themselves two points adrift at the bottom, albeit with a game in hand - at home to Wasps - over Worcester and Leeds above them.

Northampton, by contrast, moved to within two points of leaders Leicester, and with a game in hand they look well placed to secure a home play-off semi-final.

They made it hard for themselves though, Myler missing four penalties in the opening quarter and Sale twice denying them tries with last-ditch tackles.

Fly-half Myler should have booted Saints into an early lead as the visitors made an assured start, but he pushed his simple penalty attempt wide.


Northampton looked the more comfortable side, although they wasted great attacking situations when Sale lock Chris Jones stole two line-outs in his own 22.

Myler once again failed to make Saints' dominance pay as he missed a second penalty from virtually the same spot as his first and then they squandered a scoring opportunity when Courtney Lawes threw a forward pass which Ashton knocked on just metres from the line.

There were then two more missed penalties by Myler, which offered hope to Sale as they began to get a foothold in the game with Jonny Kennedy's scything break from his own 22.

But the hosts were also let down by their goal-kickers, Hodgson and Lee Thomas both missing penalty attempts.

With the match still scoreless approaching the interval, Myler's grubber kick sat up for Diggin to cross for the opening try, Bruce Reihana taking over the kicking duties to land the conversion.

Nine minutes into the second half, Ashton showed his attacking instincts again to take Saints clear.

The wing angled across the Sale backline to put centre Joe Ansbro through a gap and was on hand to collect Reihana's pass to touch down, although the Kiwi missed the conversion.

Sale rallied but Nick Macleod blew an almost certain try by hanging on to the ball with two men outside him.

Northampton brought former Australia lock Dan Vickerman on for his debut and Shane Geraghty replaced Myler, the discarded England man's penalty putting the visitors more than two scores clear.

Although Cohen gave his side a glimmer of hope, Hodgson's late miss denied them even the consolation of a bonus point in defeat.

Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones:
"I thought the performance was much better. We created opportunities but unfortunately we didn't take them.

"In this game it's all about taking your chances and I don't know how many times we were over the line or on the line and gave possession away, and that's the difference.

"It's tough at the bottom of the league but I certainly believe if we keep raising the performance as we did today we will get out of this. The last thing we need to do is panic. We have to keep believing in what we are doing."

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder:
"We created a lot of opportunities in the first half and were disappointed just to have that one score at half-time.

"But it is tricky to come here and win and we'll be driving up the motorway happy with the four points.

"It's disappointing to see Sale in this position. As a director of rugby all you can do is concentrate on your own job, but I think they have some quality players. Their half-backs could be key and they have some good strong ball carriers."

Sale: MacLeod, Vakacegu, Kennedy, Thomas, Cohen, Hodgson, Peel, E. Roberts, Briggs, Forster, C. Jones, Schofield, Ormsby, Fearns, Koyamailbole.

Replacements: Bishop for Thomas (70), M. Jones for Briggs (76), Kerr for Forster (40), Cox for C. Jones (72), Seymour for Ormsby (53).

Not Used: O'Donnell, Wigglesworth, James.

Northampton: Reihana, Ashton, Ansbro, Downey, Diggin, Myler, Dickson, Tonga'uiha, Sharman, Mujati, Fernandez Lobbe, Kruger, Lawes, Best, Wilson.

Replacements: Clarke for Downey (72), Geraghty for Myler (59), Dickens for Dickson (66), Dreyer for Tonga'uiha (76), Long for Sharman (72), Morris for Mujati (66), Vickerman for Fernandez Lobbe (55), Dowson for Lawes (59).

Att: 7,109

Ref: C White (RFU).

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see also
Gloucester 47-3 Sale
27 Feb 10 |  English
Northampton 19-3 Leicester
26 Feb 10 |  English

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