Northampton Saints were beaten in torrid conditions on the road as Sale Sharks won 30-6 at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday evening.
Two James Grayson penalties kept the men in Black, Green and Gold in touch at the break, with the half-time score 13-6 after Akker van der Merwe’s try and eight points from the boot of AJ MacGinty.
But despite plenty of possession and territory playing into a gale-force wind in the second 40, Saints could not make their chances count, while the Sharks were clinical with scores through Marland Yarde and Jono Ross.
Despite that Saints started the game well, winning an early scrum penalty which Grayson kicked into the corner, but the play came to nothing as the maul was halted.
Debutant Karl Wilkins made a big carry shortly after, and as Sale felled the No.8 they were pinged for hands on the floor and Northampton took the lead through Grayson’s boot.
That lead was short-lived however as van der Merwe latched onto a quick ball down the short side from a five-metre lineout to score in the right corner, and MacGinty’s conversion from out wide was judged to perfection in the blustery conditions to make it 7-3.
Sale enjoyed plenty of territory over the next few minutes but a stern defensive effort, coupled with Tom James’ try-saving tackle on Byron McGuigan (which forced the wing to knock-on over the tryline) keeping the Sharks at bay until the 29th minute.
However two pieces of ill-discipline from Saints cost them six points, as two penalties just outside the 22 were converted by MacGinty either side of the half-hour mark.
But in the 34th minute, scrum-half Gus Warr box-kicked out on the full to hand Northampton field position, which they did not relinquish as Wilkins and skipper Lewis Ludlam got through plenty of work with the ball in hand, before Sharks infringed in front of the posts and Grayson knocked over the subsequent penalty.
With the score 13-6 at the interval, Saints were in touch but kicking into the strong wind after half-time, and the second 40 got off to the worst possible start as Yarde touched down from Sam James’ cross-field kick.
The visitors were certainly firing at scrum time though, winning consecutive penalties to take them up to Sale’s five-metre line, but as the maul rumbled towards the whitewash, van der Merwe got through the middle and snaffled the ball.
Saints unloaded their bench of forwards, with Brandon Nansen entering the action for his Club debut, but it was Sharks who stretched their lead as a tackle off the ball allowed MacGinty to kick his side more than two scores clear.
Josh Gillespie, Connor Tupai and Tom Litchfield all entered the fray, with the latter making a powerful carry from centre in the closing stages, but as the clock ticked into the red, Sale put some gloss on the scoreline as Jono Ross powered over from short range.
Despite the loss, Saints stayed fourth in the Gallagher Premiership standings after eight rounds of action, with the league now taking a two-week break to make way for the opening clashes of the Premiership Rugby Cup campaign.