The Saints have secured maximum hauls from all three home matches played in the league thus far this season, with the third consecutive sell-out crowd rising to their feet at regular intervals throughout the game.
Rarely will a player score three tries but not take home the man of the match bubbly. But that is what happened, as while Samu Manoa emerged from the bottom of three irresistible mauls to become the first Saints forward to score a hat trick of Premiership tries since Pat Lam in 1999 – also against Sale, the American was out-shone by Ken Pisi’s first half brilliance.
The winger, called up into Samoa’s Autumn International squad this week, caught the eye with the team’s first try. Taking the ball in traffic, his dancing feet took him clear before sheer pace sent him over the whitewash.
Pisi was also key in try number three, collecting a Stephen Myler cross-field kick beautifully before feeding elder brother George for the score.
By then Manoa had rumbled over for his first, and with Myler adding two conversions and a penalty Saints were already well clear at 22-3.
Danny Cipriani had replied with Sale’s only points, a 23rd-minute penalty, and while the Sharks did have their moments Saints’ defence was as resolute as their finishing was clinical.
There was more of the same at the end of the second half, when despite the game being won the black, green and gold-clad bodies were put on the line repeatedly to prevent a late consolation score.
“It was a good performance,” said Mallinder. “They got quite a lot of ball and quite a lot of territory at times in the first half, but we defended well and took our opportunities. Ken Pisi had two moments of magic, firstly with his own try and then taking Stephen Myler’s kick. That was good, with the forwards getting on top in the second half with some tries from mauls.
“And then the defence in the second half, when we could have easily conceded a few more tries but the attitude to stick at it was pleasing.”
The second half took some time to get going, but if the game had not been won already it was sealed with two tries for Manoa in the space of three minutes. Both came from attacking lineouts, and with Myler adding both conversions the margin was into the 30s.
Sale’s only try came just after the hour mark, but it was worth waiting for. Tom Brady’s counter-attack was followed by some slick passing and a good finish from centre Mark Jennings. Replacement fly half Joe Ford added the extras, but it was not the final word on the scoreboard.
Instead that fell to Kahn Fotuali’I, who pounced on a loose ball after the home pack had done a demolition job on a Sale scrum five metres from the Sharks’ line. The Samoan also revelled in the open spaces afforded him at fly half in the game’s latter stages, and while one sensational final move after time had expired did not end in a score, Mallinder said that the team can look ahead to Europe satisfied with how the opening rounds of the Aviva Premiership had gone.
But he also warned that Saints wanted more, and were still smarting at their only defeat of the campaign.
“We’re in pretty good shape and where we want to be after six games,” he added. “We’re still a bit disappointed with our Wasps defeat, but that happens and fortunately it’s a long Premiership season. We’ve won five out of six and got some good bonus points, but now it’s time to put that onto the back burner for a little bit and put our thoughts into doing well in Europe.”
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6mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-0
14mins SAINTS Try K Pisi 8-0
20mins SAINTS Try Manoa Con Myler 15-0
23mins SALE Pen Cipriani 15-3
31mins SAINTS Try G Pisi Con Myler 22-3
HALF-TIME SAINTS 22 SALE 3
52mins SAINTS Try Manoa Con Myler 29-3
55mins SAINTS Try Manoa Con Myler 36-3
62mins SALE Try Jennings Con Ford 36-10
65mins SAINTS Try Fotuali’I Con Wilson 43-10
FULL-TIME SAINTS 43 SALE 10