Northampton Saints 67 Sale Sharks 17: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Rory Hutchinson scored for Saints and celebrated by throwing the ball into the crowd in delight (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Rory Hutchinson scored for Saints and celebrated by throwing the ball into the crowd in delight (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

It's all very well scoring a plethora of tries against Timisoara Saracens and a Leicester Tigers second string, but could Saints do it in England's top division against a team unbeaten in the league since November?

You bet they could.

Chris Boyd and his coaches have instilled a swagger in this Northampton side and earlier in the season it was taking time to settle in, with glimpses of it on show.

But now Saints are really starting to click and the rugby they are producing is something to savour for supporters lucky enough to witness it.

They have now scored an eye-watering 48 tries in five matches, leaving people struggling to keep count on almost every outing.

And on Saturday, they produced the best of the lot.

Taqele Naiyaravoro caused Sale problems all afternoon

Taqele Naiyaravoro caused Sale problems all afternoon

To score nine tries in a Premiership match is incredible.

To do it against a team with as much quality as Sale is staggering.

Ben Curry, Faf de Klerk and Denny Solomona were among the stellar names on show for the Sharks.

But they and their side had no answer to the speed and strength that Saints showcased from start to finish.

Alex Moon and George Furbank celebrated

Alex Moon and George Furbank celebrated

It was one of the most comprehensive league wins in recent Saints history, akin to the one they produced against Wasps in the title winning season of 2013/14.

But on that occasion, the opposition had nothing to play for and were resting plenty of players for the Champions Cup play-offs that beckoned soon after.

Saints won 74-13 against that mix and match Wasps side, scoring 11 tries in the process.

But this success against Sale felt much more seismic.

Tom Collins scored twice

Tom Collins scored twice

It was another coming-of-age moment for a Saints squad that is being given license to play and is managing to maintain it for the full 80 minutes.

The confidence levels are currently through the Franklin's Gardens roof and the tries are coming because of that.

Saints keep their foot on the throat of the opposition and just keep piling on the pain.

And they are very much still alive on all three fronts this season.

Not only that, but they have returned a feelgood factor to Franklin's Gardens.

After Saints failed to back up their sensational double-winning season with more big trophies, the fear factor started to fade.

Cobus Reinach claimed a double

Cobus Reinach claimed a double

No longer were the team as formidable, they started to lose games on home soil more regularly and they needed a new freshness to lift everyone's spirits.

Talented young players have come through to do just that.

Fans are watching youngsters they feel an affinity with and not only are they pulling on the shirt, they are bringing top quality to it.

Against Sale on Saturday, the combination of senior players and prodigious players proved so potent.

And it was a pleasure to watch - one of the most enjoyable matches to report on for many years.

If Saints can maintain this momentum for the weeks to come, the good times - and plenty more fans - will be coming back to the Gardens.

And the great thing for the supporters who were in attendance on Saturday is that they only have to wait until next weekend to watch this talented team on home turf again.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

Running out of superlatives for the 22-year-old who excelled at full-back for 20 minutes before stepping in at 10 for the injured Biggar and pulling the strings in superb fashion... 9

AHSEE TUALA

The Samoan's best showing of the season as he proved a constant menace for Sale, dealing brilliantly with the high ball and constantly beating defenders... 9

RORY HUTCHINSON

Was named man of the match in two of the previous three games and picked up where he left off with another dazzling centre display... 9

PIERS FRANCIS

An exceptional return from injury for the England man as he made it through the full 80 minutes and excelled throughout, superbly setting up one try for Cobus Reinach... 9

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

One of his best showings for Saints so far as he thrived on the amount of possession his side had, starting attacks from deep and proving hard to stop when in the Sale half... 9

DAN BIGGAR

Was only on the field for 20 minutes but his restarts caused Sale all sorts of problems during that time and he more than contributed to a big win... 7

COBUS REINACH

You just can't stop the South African scrum-half from scoring and he definitely won the battle with compatriot Faf de Klerk, dotting down twice in another fine showing... 9

FRANCOIS VAN WYK

Was a penalty-winning machine during the first period, twice punishing Sale at the breakdown and helping to keep Saints going forward... 8

JAMES FISH

Took a knock during the first half but didn't let it affect him as he continued his impressive campaign with another strong showing... 8

EHREN PAINTER

Savoured the scrum battle and continued his progression with another useful performance in the Premiership... 7

API RATUNIYARAWA

Time and again the lock blasted holes in the Sale rearguard, once again illustrating his worth to the team... 8

ALEX MOON

Has taken to life in the Premiership like a prop in a restaurant, chewing up opposition defenders with his physicality and composed approach... 8

JAMIE GIBSON

Has so much quality in his game, with an ability to mix it up allied with some real silk, showing he really fits into a team that loves an offload... 9

LEWIS LUDLAM

Started it all off for Saints with a sensational run and offload that led to a try for Reinach and his strength all around the field is hugely impressive... 9

TOM WOOD - CHRON STAR MAN

Was skippering Saints and certainly led from the front, producing a typically warrior-like display that also included plenty of quality... 9

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TOM COLLINS (for Biggar 20)

Might have had to wait 20 minutes to get some game time but he more than made up for it as he delivered a display that saw him score twice and also come close to a hat-trick... 8

PAUL HILL (for Painter 50)

Looked hungry for action when he came on, making his tackles and trying to put pressure on Sale...6

ALEX WALLER (for van Wyk 55)

Saints were well on top when they started to make real use of their bench and this man didn't do anything wrong after coming on... 6

REECE MARSHALL (for Fish 55)

Was eager to have a say in the game and there was no shortage of determination from him... 6

ALEX MITCHELL (for Reinach 55)

Played his part in a magical Saints score, combining with Tom Collins for the winger's sensational effort... 7