Northampton Saints U18s were denied their second victory of the Premiership Rugby Academy League season, but did bring a losing bonus point home from Manchester after a 48-22 defeat to Sale Sharks.
Saints put in a gutsy defensive display in the opening quarter as Sale attacked their 22 ruthlessly, but the visitors managed to hold their ground and only conceded three points, despite Sale coming within inches of their line on multiple occasions.
The Mancunians were the first to cross the whitewash however, with two scores in as many minutes taking them into a comfortable 15-0 lead.
But Clayton soon responded for Saints, as his team wore down the Sharks deep inside their own half, and the second-rower was able to pierce through their defence and reach out for the line.
Sale enhanced their lead before the interval, but a yellow card halted the hosts' search for a bonus point and allowed Gillespie to pull a score back with a fine try of his own in the corner.
That gave Northampton the momentum and a sniff of a comeback, with a 12-point deficit to negotiate after the break at 22-10 down, but despite continuing in the ascendancy for the first 20 minutes of the second half Saints could not notch the next score.
Grayson's dash for the line then left Sharks for dust, but Sale reacted quickly with two more scores of their own, one coming from their own fly-half from an impressive showing of pace down the middle of the field.
Centre Litchfield bagged the bonus point with the try of the match with a stellar run down the right flank, but Sale ended the tie with a seventh score to the frustration of the young Saints after a strong second half.
The defeat leaves them sixth in the northern conference of the Premiership Rugby U18s Academies League; they will next travel to Wasps in two weeks for their penultimate game of the season.