Northampton Saints moved within a whisker of the Gallagher Premiership’s top six with a resounding nine-try victory over Sale Sharks at Franklin’s Gardens.
Cobus Reinach and Tom Collins both bagged doubles in a sensational performance from the men in Black, Green and Gold – with Saints’ relentless attack not letting up for all 80 minutes.
Tom Wood, Ahsee Tuala, Taqele Naiyaravoro, George Furbank and Rory Hutchinson all also touched down in front of a delirious home crowd, with the win moving Saints up to seventh in the league table ahead of a crucial clash against Bath Rugby next week.
Saints got the upper hand early on after Faf de Klerk was caught offside; Dan Biggar’s kick gave his team the 3-0 lead.
It didn’t take the home side long to further their advantage as Lewis Ludlam swatted de Klerk away and offloaded expertly to Reinach for the opening try of the game under the posts.
Sale were quick to cut the deficit to seven as Ludlam was penalised, with AJ MacGinty doing the honours with a fine kick of his own, but Biggar replied with a second just moments later to restore the ten-point lead.
Saints followed up with a second score instantly from the kick off; Naiyaravoro set the returning Piers Francis on a darting run up the left wing, and the centre’s offload to Reinach bamboozled the Sale defence with the scrum-half running clear for his second score.
Saints were ruthless in defence as well as attack, repelling a series of Sharks possessions, before building the phases and sending man-of-the-match Wood charging over the whitewash to notch a third try.
Sale did manage to get one score back as they were awarded a penalty try for an infringement in a rolling maul by Northampton, but Collins bagged then the try bonus point before half-time.
It was an extraordinary finish by the flyer, who juggled Jamie Gibson’s perfectly-timed offload before leaping into the corner to take his side down the tunnel 32-10 ahead at the break.
Saints kept the accelerator hard down at the start of the second half, with Tuala getting his name on the scoresheet and Francis nailing a tricky touchline conversion.
Denny Solomana did add a second for Sale, diving for the line in the right corner with Northampton for once stretched, before both sides rung the changes for the final 20 minutes.
The explosive Naiyaravoro sealed the result as he cleverly picked up quickly from the back of a ruck to run in under the posts, before the superb Furbank brought up the half-century of points with a seventh try with ten minutes still left on the clock.
Sharks were desperately seeking a couple of tries to salvage a bonus point, but after Northampton held them up on the line and turned over the ball, Hutchinson dashed 80 metres down the right flank to once again lift the roof off the Gardens.
Another length of the field score was still to come from Collins; after Heinrich Brüssow snaffled a turnover, Gibson and Furbank’s one-two released the winger whose boot forward was grabbed by Alex Mitchell, and there was Collins on his shoulder to finish off the try.
Saints so nearly scored a tenth with the clock in the red, but Collins’ hat-trick was chalked off for a forward pass, and Karl Dickson blew his whistle for an astonishing 67-17 victory to move Chris Boyd’s side up the Gallagher Premiership standings.