Saints go top of the table as they claim superb comeback success against Sale

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Saints moved to the top of the Gallagher Premiership table with a superb 21-17 comeback success against Sale Sharks at a sold-out cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

Sale had been 14-0 and 17-7 up as they rolled up their sleeves and frustrated Saints for long periods in the final game of 2023.

But the black, green and gold kept believing and Alex Mitchell sparked them into life as he scored before a penalty try was given to Saints and a yellow card was dished out to Sale prop Asher Opoku-Fordjour.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Saints then held on in the closing stages before booting the ball out to bring a big roar from the home crowd, who celebrated a sixth successive win in all competitions.

Saints celebrated a win against Sale Sharks (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Saints celebrated a win against Sale Sharks (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Saints celebrated a win against Sale Sharks (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Phil Dowson's men had gone into the game on the back of fine wins in the Premiership and in the Champions Cup, but they found life tough early on against the Sharks.

The two sides engaged in a game of relentless kick tennis from the off, with Sale calling the tune.

Saints got caught at the breakdown and Sale earned the penalty, but George Ford sent his long-range effort just wide.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Saints soon earned a penalty in Sharks territory, but after going for the corner, they failed to get anything going from the lineout drive and were turned over.

A penalty came for Saints at the Sale scrum, but after going to the corner again, the home side found themselves frustrated once more, going off their feet to give their opponents an easy escape.

Sale were finding life tough at the scrum early on but after they were penalised again, Fin Smith lost his battle with the wind, dropping his shot at goal just short.

The Sharks were proving a tough nut to crack, with Saints starting to run out of ideas as the half went on.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And Sale landed a sucker punch just before the break as, with a penalty advantage to play with, Joe Carpenter found a way through to give his side a precious opening try.

Ford added the extras to make it 7-0 and Sale saw out the closing stages of the half without any danger to preserve their lead.

Saints tried to lift the tempo after the break and some tidy play released Ollie Sleightholme down the left, but Sale scrambled to get him into touch before he could score in the corner.

And after the Sharks won a penalty for Tom Roebuck being tackled off the ball, Saints were under pressure, with Sale powering over through Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ford converted to make it 14-0 and it looked like a mountain to climb against such a resilient opponent.

Saints finally found a response and gave the home fans something to cheer when they pieced together a move that ended with Rory Hutchinson firing a pass to the onrushing George Furbank, who flew over the line.

Smith slotted the conversion superbly from the touchline and the gap was seven points again, but Ford extended the lead to 10 with a tidy drop goal.

Saints had to survive a Sale five-metre scrum, with the home side winning a penalty to clear their lines.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

And Saints then struck as Sleightholme flew through the middle of the field, taking his side into the 22, and Sale couldn't hold out as Mitchell eventually finished things off.

Smith converted and the noise levels were rising with three points between the teams and 14 minutes to go.

Saints had the bit between their teeth and with Sale under real pressure, another penalty inside arrived inside the away 22.

Furbank took the quick tap penalty and dived under the posts, but he was held up. However, Opoku-Fordjour had tackled from an offside position, meaning Saints were awarded a penalty try and Opoku-Fordjour was given a yellow card.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sale found a way to make their way upfield as they sought to regain their lead, but they had a lineout stolen by Saints just inside the 22 and the home side ran the ball clear before kicking it into the stands to put the seal on a special win.

Saints: Furbank (c); Freeman, Odendaal (Litchfield 74), Hutchinson, Sleightholme; F Smith, Mitchell; A Waller (Haffar 56), S Matavesi (Langdon 49), Davison (Hill 54); Munga (Moon 49), Coles; Scott-Young (Lawes 58), Pearson, Augustus (Graham 70).

Sale Sharks: Carpenter; Roebuck, S James, R du Preez (Veainu 72), Reed; Ford, Warr (Thomas 76); Harrison (Onasanya 76), Cowan-Dickie (Taylor 58), Schonert (Opoku-Fordjour 49); Wiese (Dugdale 45), Hill (Beaumont 63); van Rhyn, Curry (c), JL du Preez.

Referee: Matthew Carley