Lock Michael Paterson scores against former club as Saints see off Sale
Lock Michael Paterson touched down against former club Sale Sharks as Northampton Saints kept their Aviva Premiership play-off hopes alive with a 32-12 triumph at the AJ Bell Stadium.
After a slow start to the game, it was the Saints who assumed command and went 12-0 ahead via Ken Pisi and Paterson scores, but Josh Charnley's first try in rugby union reduced the arrears.
Stephen Myler's penalty extended the Saints' buffer on the stroke of half-time and Mike Haywood's try after the interval effectively ended the match as a contest.
Myler kicked a second three-pointer to go with his two conversions before Bryn Evans got a consolation score for the Sharks.
All Northampton needed for a perfect evening's work was a fourth try and that came in the last minute via Ethan Waller.
With atrocious conditions causing issues in the first half, it was always going to be an attritional contest before the interval. Handling was particularly a problem in the early stages but it was Sale who initially dealt better with the torrential rain, pinning the visitors back in their 22.
Steve Diamond's men looked to attack through the maul but, after the Saints infringed at one drive, the away side defended the second lineout well as they forced a turnover and cleared their lines.
The Sharks then created another opportunity when good hands sent Denny Solomona scampering down the right-hand touchline, but the wing could not quite recollect his grubber through.
Having failed to convert that pressure, the hosts were duly punished. Northampton grew into the game and Myler was finding his range with the boot, sending a number of well-judged kicks towards the Sale back three.
Solomona failed to deal with the aerial bombardment and Ben Foden was on hand to pounce on his error and send Jamie Gibson charging towards the line.
Gibson was held up but excellent work by Harry Mallinder allowed Pisi to cross the whitewash unopposed for a 5-0 lead.
Myler continued his excellent work by forcing Mike Haley to concede a five-metre scrum and, from the resultant set-piece, Paterson touched down.
With the fly-half also converting, the Greater Manchester outfit needed the next score to keep themselves in the encounter and their patience was rewarded when Charnley went over following Haley's neat grubber.
Sam James, standing in as kicker, impressively added the extras out wide before Northampton's pivot responded, bisecting the uprights with a three-point attempt as the visitors went into the break 15-7 ahead.
Jim Mallinder's team began the second period on the front foot and, unlike the hosts, they managed to take advantage when in control.
Following a maul, Haywood crossed over before Myler kicked a conversion and a penalty to give them an 18-point buffer in the final quarter.
The Sharks hit back via Evans but it was too late for any potential comeback. In fact, it was the Saints who got the bonus point when Waller touched down.