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MATCH REPORT Seven-try Saints sail past Sharks

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Gloucester's win over Saracens earlier in the day meant that Saints needed a win to guarantee their place in the business end of the season, but if there was any pressure it didn't show as the men in black, green and gold gave the capacity sunlit Gardens crowd a show to savour.


Although they received the kick off, Saints spent the opening five minutes without the ball in their hands. Sale's ball retention was excellent, albeit somewhat predictable, and although the Sharks tried to mix and match their point of attack by and large they were well marshalled by the hosts' rearguard.


It was going to take something a bit special to break Saints down, and Tom Brady provided a good spark, bouncing Jamie Elliott off and forcing Ben Foden into a try-saving tackle.


Still the Sharks kept on coming, Jonny Leota also coming close to the whitewash, but the defence held to force a fumble and receive a good ovation from the stands.


But that was as good as it got for Sale in the opening quarter. Not only did Saints turn on the power at the scrum to win a penalty, but they proceeded to march inexorably upfield and take the lead with a pair of Stephen Myler penalties.


A try was to follow as Saints started to play with power and subtlety, with Luther Burrell showing a bit of both in rounding Mark Cueto and finding Elliott with a great pass.


The winger was forced into touch, but Saints had set their stall out and when Tom Wood crashed over it paved the way for a half-hour in which the hosts dominated both possession and territory and were rewarded with two more tries and 25 unanswered points.


Elliott may have had the first chance, but it was Ken Pisi who proved to be a thorn in Sale's side. The chase of his own chip brought the turnover that created the opening try, and with a break from a set lineout and a burst down the right wing only ended with a desperate, try-saving tackle, the Samoan was clearly in fine form.


But for all Pisi's attacking intent, it was another player, Lee Dickson, who gave the Shrubbery Terrace a score to cheer.


The scrum-half had been threatening to tap every penalty quickly throughout the game so far, so when Sale switched off he was in prime position to take advantage from 40 metres. And there was more to come in the same corner four minutes later, Burrell showing good alertness to pounce when Tom May's kick ahead rebounded over the goal line.


All of a sudden Saints had a match-winning 25-0 lead, but just as they had done at the start of the game, Sale finished the half deep in Saints' territory and with a great scoring opportunity. David Seymour peeled off a lineout maul, and with hooker Tommy Taylor and scrum-half Dwayne Peel in support the overlap should really have brought a try.


But Dickson pulled Taylor down with a good tackle, and although the offload was made the ball sailed into touch.


There was more of the same in the opening salvos of the second half, Sale setting up a dangerous position deep in the home 22. And although it was Saints who had a try chalked off - Brian Mujati blocking a defender in the build-up to Samu Manoa's 'score' - it was to the Sharks' credit that they gave as good as they got.


Kearnan Myall was their main man with ball in hand, and after seeing the lock make a pair of clean breaks it seemed an interesting decision when he was substituted 10 minutes into the half.


Less of a surprise was the identity of the Saints' fourth try scorer. Elliott has lifted the roof of the south-west corner plenty of times this season, and his two tries in nine minutes won not just his team the bonus point but also finally broke the visitors' resistance.


The first was created by a sublime Myler pass, the second finishing a pinpoint Ryan Lamb cross kick, and with another 10 points the result was put beyond question.


James Wilson's brace on 68 and 77 minutes took Saints to the verge of 50 points, as the Gardens turned its attention to giving the departing players a send-off to remember.


Soane Tonga'uiha was the first to receive a standing ovation from all sides, followed shortly after by May and later Brian Mujati.


A pair of yellow cards for Courtney Lawes - spoiling somewhat a Travis Perkins man of the match performance - and Tom Holmes came too late to seriously affect proceedings. And Sale's last-gasp try for James Gaskell was mere consolation.


But the day was all about Saints, and their march to another massive play-off clash.


TIMELINE

10mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-0

14mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-0

21mins SAINTS Try Wood Con Myler 13-0

29mins SAINTS Try Dickson Con Myler 20-0

33mins SAINTS Try Burrell 25-0

HALF-TIME SAINTS 25 SALE 0

55mins SAINTS Try Elliott 30-0

64mins SAINTS Try Elliott 35-0

68mins SAINTS Try Wilson Con Lamb 42-0

71mins SAINTS Yellow card Lawes

71mins SALE Yellow card Holmes

77mins SAINTS Try Wilson 47-0

80mins SALE Try Gaskell Con Cipriani 47-7

FULL-TIME SAINTS 47 SALE 7