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Northampton hit back to defeat Sale

Northampton came from behind to register a 26-11 five-point win at Franklin's Gardens and move into the top four.

Sale went 11-0 in front after 28 minutes thanks to a Bryn Evans try and two penalties, but did not score another point as Northampton got their act together after the break with tries from Ken Pisi, Tom Collins and JJ Hanrahan to add to Mikey Haywood's three minutes before the half-time.

Sale made six changes to the starting line-up they announced on Friday, while Northampton lost Luther Burrell overnight to injury with Harry Mallinder taking his place at centre.

Danny Cipriani was brought back into the Sale 10 shirt after being dropped to the bench for last week's win over Harlequins for his poor goal-kicking, but he was no better here with his first effort from 45 metres sailing well wide.

Northampton had most of the territory without creating much, while Sale found their lineout drive nullified by the home side in a sterile opening 20 minutes.

But the visitors brought the game to life when another failed lineout drive saw them sweep to the left wing where second row Evans powered through Ben Foden to score. The TMO interrupted Cipriani's conversion, but it stood though the fly-half was again wide with his kick.

Two minutes later, though, he landed a simple penalty and Tom Arscott took over from the tee to send over a three-pointer from 45m to give the visitors an 11-0 lead.

Saints had produced nothing of note until three minutes from the break Mallinder cut back on a superb angle to burst through the defensive line. He went past two defenders only to be felled by veteran scrum-half Peter Stringer five metres short.

The attacked continued, though, and saw Evans yellow-carded when referee JP Doyle judged the former All Black had deliberately batted down Stephen Myler's attempted pass with men spare on his outside.

As they had done all half, Northampton kicked the penalty to the corner and a driving maul collapsed just short, Lee Dickson was again stopped inches from the line, but Haywood was on hand to pick up and burrow over. Myler converted from the touchline to get the home side back in the match at 11-7 at half-time.

With Sale down to 14 Northampton took advantage with Ken Pisi touching down after they moved the ball from one side of the pitch to the other to stretch the illuminous green line. Myler converted as Evans returned to give Northampton a 14-11 lead.

Two minutes later Tom Collins scored Saints' third try. James Craig turned Sale over and sent Dickson haring clear on the 10m line. The scrum-half was caught by Tom Arscott but he offloaded to Collins to touch down under the posts for Myler to convert.

Northampton were reduced to 14 men when George Pisi was yellow-carded for tripping Will Addison as he chased a kick, but the home side managed the 10 minutes well, going through the phases and playing keep-ball rugby.

It kept Sale pinned in their half, but Sam James broke clear to set up some pressure. It was halted though when Arscott collapsed in a heap, having got his studs stuck in the pitch and twisting his knee badly. He had to be helped from the field after a lengthy delay for treatment.

With two minutes to go Hanrahan, having replaced Myler at fly-half, showed superb feet to squirm and dance through the Sale defence from seven metres out, stretching to touch down for the bonus-point try.

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