Northampton Saints 17-14 Sale Sharks: Grayson inspires Saints to a rare home win


Northampton Saints end their Franklin’s Gardens woes with a 17-14 victory over Sale Sharks.

A second half Sharks revival proved to be too little too late as four James Grayson penalties inspired Saints to only their second home win of the season.

Defeat for Sale sees their top four position threatened as Northampton move two points behind the North West outfit.

Sharks started brightly and a lighting break from AJ MacGinty almost set Jean-Luc du Preez up to score in the opening five minutes, however, an excellent Saints turn-over cleared danger.

An ill-disciplined start from Northampton forced referee, Matthew Carley into showing Ollie Sleightholme a yellow inside 10 minutes for repeated offences.

From the resulting 5m lineout, Sharks’ forwards battled their way towards the try line and JL du Preez looked to have forced his way over, but a strong Saints defence held the flanker up.

Despite being down to 14, Saints found the breakthrough mid-way through the half when Teimana Harrison powered over from close range.

Aaron Reed initially denied Tommy Freeman from scoring after a fantastic run, but with Sale pinned on their own try line, Harrison was able to pick up and power over.

Sharks continued to control territory inside Saints’ 22. Lood de Jager moved Sale into a strong position, but once again they were unable to break down a colossus Northampton defence.

Fraser Dingwall’s interception halted a dangerous Sale attack, before the winger won a penalty which Grayson slotted to extend the hosts’ lead to 8-0.

Another set of three were added at the start of the second half after Sharks were penalised for contact in the air at the line-out.

MacGinty’s failed to reduce the score line with a penalty, and minutes later the visitors found themselves 14 points behind when Grayson’s kick on half way sailed through the posts.

With 20 minutes to play Sale finally got points on the board after a well worked maul saw JL du Preez break free to crash over. MacGinty’s extras reduced the difference to seven points.

Raffi Qurike’s introduction  caused immediate problems for Saints, and from another lineout maul, Sale scored. De Jager bundled his way over, and with the conversion, Saints lead narrowed to three points to set up a nervy final 15.

Despite Sharks’ press for more than a losing point, and with the time in red, a blind pass was intercepted by Tom Woods which allowed Saints to kick the ball out and confirm a well-deserved victory.

Sanderson: ‘Too little too late’

Sharks Director of Rugby, Alex Sanderson, post-match says his side’s second half revival came too late and that the game had already been lost before the break.

“We lost the game in the first 20 when we never capitalised on the territory and possession we forced. We have to be more clinical and accurate to finish chances,” said Sanderson to BT Sport.

Despite defeat, Sale can take positives away from Franklin’s Gardens, one of those the impressive performance from substitute Raffi Quirke at scrum half.

“The defence again was epically psychical, how and where we played the game I was really happy with and all the lads that came on made a difference,” Sanderson added, “Raffi is a spark, we are very lucky to have him.”

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