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Mallinder buoyed ahead of Euro tie

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder will take his side into next weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final in upbeat mood following Saturday's confidence-boosting 53-24 Aviva Premiership win over Sale Sharks.

Saints scored eight tries at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday afternoon to lift spirits ahead of next Sunday's European last-eight tie against Ulster at Milton Keynes - and Mallinder fancies his team's chances.

He said: "It's going to be a really tough game, but it's one we are capable of winning."

Mallinder was particularly impressed by his dominant pack, whose supremacy forced two penalty tries and provided a strong foundation for several others.

"Sale were struggling a little bit up front," he said. "But they put us under a lot of pressure in the first 40 or 50 minutes."

Sale lost scrum-half Dwayne Peel, who was knocked out in a collision after only 13 minutes, but the Wales international said afterwards that he was "okay". The Sharks suffered another blow when hooker Neil Briggs was sent off after collecting a second yellow card for his part in a punch-up straight after lock Wame Lewaravu scored their second try.

Steve Diamond, their executive director of sport, failed to appear at the post-match press conference but Mallinder said: "They will have been disappointed to lose Peel to injury, and then with the sending-off.

"But they have some good players and people like Charlie Hodgson can make them play. At half-time we were still not in the clear, despite scoring our first-half tries."

Aside from the two penalty tries, Saints' other scores came from scrum-half Lee Dickson, England winger Chris Ashton, prop Brian Mujati, England flanker Tom Wood and replacements Bruce Reihana and Phil Dowson, with fly-half Stephen Myler kicking 13 points.

Sale replied with tries from replacement hooker Marc Jones and lock Lewaravu, with former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson kicking 14 points.

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