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Sale upset leaders Northampton

Sale pulled off a shock 19-6 win at home to Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton to keep their hopes of a top-four finish alive.

Saints struggled to find a way through the Sharks defensive line as they were restricted to just two goals from Will Hooley.

Sharks, on the other hand, showed a lot of attacking enterprise in the first half, with tries from Mark Cueto, Marc Jones and Tom Brady sealing the win.

Former England fly-half Danny Cipriani and Sam Tuitupou returned to Sale's first 15 after coming off the bench last time out at Wasps.

Northampton made seven changes to the team that lost to Exeter in the LV= Cup final and included hooker Dylan Hartley, lock Courtney Lawes, winger George North and centre Luther Burrell following Six Nations duty with England.

Saints took the lead early on as Hooley slotted over a penalty from range, b ut an inspired break from hooker Dwayne Peel provided the home side with the platform for the first try.

Peel danced around 40 yards down the field before being stopped. However, the damage had already been done, as the ball was quickly whipped out wide to Cueto, who touched down at the corner. Cipriani converted to give Sale a four-point lead.

Northampton hit back when they won another penalty, which Hooley once again converted, but the Sharks defence was holding them out well.

In fact the home outfit had the chance to restore there four-point advantage shortly after, although Cipriani failed with his goal attempt.

Yet the confidence Sale had in their attack was clear when they turned down two kicks at goal to go for the power play. It was a decision they would not regret as they then went over for their second try of the afternoon when Jones forced his way over from close range.

Referee Luke Pearce then sought assistance from the video referee to deal with fighting that broke out after the score, which saw both Saints captain Hartley and Tuitupou sent to the bin for their involvement before Cipriani missed the conversion.

Cipriani later took full advantage of the space created against a one man down defensive line as he grubbered in behind the visitors defence through to Brady. The winger squeezed in at the corner, with Cipriani then converting from the touchline to make it 19-6 at half time.

The pouring rain restricted any free-flowing play to a minimum in the second half.

The visitors piled on the pressure and were deep in Sharks territory for a prolonged periods, but a magnificent defensive effort saw the Sharks through to victory in the end, as both sides failed to register a point in the second half.


From Belfast Telegraph