Saints crush Sharks
Northampton cruise to eight-try win at Franklin's Gardens
Last Updated: 02/04/11 5:57pm
Ashton scores for Saints
An eight-try victory over Sale on Saturday gave Northampton a vital boost to their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes.
The Saints pack was dominant throughout the 53-24 win, earning the hosts two penalty tries during the encounter at Franklin's Gardens.
Scrum-half Lee Dickson, England winger Chris Ashton, prop Brian Mujati, England flanker Tom Wood plus replacements Bruce Reihana and Phil Dowson added further scores, while fly-half Stephen Myler kicked 13 points.
Sale's tries came from replacement hooker Marc Jones and winger Wame Lewaravu, with former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson adding 14 points with the boot.
The visitors took an early lead when Hodgson struck a penalty in the third minute but Northampton took just five minutes to answer.
Awarded a penalty well within range, the hosts instead opted for the lineout and their forwards proceeded to dismantle the Sale scrum with a powerful rolling maul.
The move earned them a close-range penalty which was quickly taken by Dickson and the number nine shot over for the try.
Saints' second came just five minutes later after left-wing Paul Diggin sliced through the middle before feeding Ashton, who raced in for the score.
Sale hooker Neil Briggs was sin-binned in the 18th minute for illegally hampering a Northampton forward drive.
And when the hosts chose a scrum over a penalty kick the Sharks were forced to reshuffle their pack, with flanker James Gaskell making way for back-up hooker Marc Jones.
The tactic was rewarded as Saints' dominance up front brought them the first of their penalty tries, converted by Myler to take the score to 19-3 after 20 minutes.
Sale attempted to stage a fightback and England winger Mark Cueto was stopped just short before Cliff put Jones in for the visitors' first try.
Hodgson converted from the touchline and then took his side to within three points of their rivals with two penalties in quick succession.
But, with just three minutes to go before the break Northampton secured their bonus point when Myler again spurned a penalty chance.
Christian Day won the lineout and Mujati charged in to score, with Myler adding the extras with a tough conversion to make it 26-16 at half-time.
Four minutes after the restart Sale pulled five back when Hodgson and Seymour combined to put Lewaravu over.
But the visitors immediately found themselves a man down when Briggs was sent off after receiving a second yellow card following a fight in front of the posts.
Myler added three more on 46 minutes and four minutes later a break by full-back Foden ended with England team-mate Wood scoring Saints' fifth try.
Reihana came on to replace Diggin after 66 minutes and within a minute had added another try for the hosts.
And substitute flanker Dowson went over two minutes from time to close out an emphatic win.