Saints warm up for Bristol Bears battle with victory against Sale Sharks

Saints stepped up their preparations for the return to Gallagher Premiership action with a 24-10 win against Sale Sharks on Friday night.
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The black, green and gold enjoyed some electric moments, scoring four tries on the night as they warmed up for the league battle at Bristol Bears next Friday night.

Burger Odendaal, Ollie Sleightholme and Ewan Baker all finished off flowing Saints moves, while Trevor Davison displayed his power to also etch his name on the scoresheet.

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Phil Dowson's men had been beaten 45-29 in a largely open clash with DHL Stormers on the previous weekend, but the Sale encounter was much more like a nip and tuck Premiership match.

Burger Odendaal scored for Saints against Sale (picture: Adam Gumbs)Burger Odendaal scored for Saints against Sale (picture: Adam Gumbs)
Burger Odendaal scored for Saints against Sale (picture: Adam Gumbs)

Saints looked largely comfortable after taking a 12-10 lead, and they never looked back after scoring their third and fourth tries on the night.

The only down side of the evening was potential injuries to Juarno Augustus and Tom Seabrook, who were both forced off earlier than planned.

Saints will hope neither issue is a serious one as they get ready to resume their Premiership campaign as they go to Ashton Gate sitting top of the standings.

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Dowson was keen to see his side sharpen up ahead of that clash, and he got what he wanted early on against Sale as Saints flew out of the blocks.

George Hendy, making his comeback from a knee injury suffered in December, went on the charge close to halfway, and that caused Sale to panic as they conceded a penalty.

Charlie Savala stuck the ball right in the corner and then used the territory that would come, with a well-timed crossfield kick from the fly-half palmed off by Courtney Lawes to Augustus, who flung the ball inside for Odendaal to score.

Savala put the icing on the cake with the successful conversion, and Saints held an early 7-0 lead.

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Sale responded well though and after Jake Garside kicked the ball straight out, the away side lined up a lineout on the home 22.

The Sharks used the possession to good effect, eventually working it wide for Rob du Preez to dive over.

Du Preez missed the conversion to ensure Saints stayed ahead, but it was to be a temporary reprieve.

Tom Lockett was sin-binned for a high tackle, and Sale took immediate advantage as Tom O'Flaherty, so often a scorer against Saints, used his speed to fly over on the right.

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Du Preez again missed the conversion, and after Lockett returned for Saints, the away side soon found themselves behind, courtesy of a Sleightholme score in the corner following a lovely lofted pass from Savala.

Savala missed the conversion from the touchline and tempers flared soon after, showing that there was certainly no intent to make it a 'friendly' from either side.

Sale were down to 14 men just after the half hour mark as flanker Sam Dugdale was yellow carded for slapping the ball out of the hands of Garside.

Saints soon capitalised, kicking the penalty to the corner before Davison used his strength to grab a try.

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Savala slotted the conversion to make it 19-10 before Augustus had to be replaced, seemingly with an injury as he headed down the tunnel after coming off.

Sale had the chance to mount one final attack on the Saints line before the break, but they were unable to make the most of the pressure and the hosts celebrated their escape.

Saints held a 19-10 lead when the half-time whistle sounded and they threatened early in the second period with Odendaal releasing Seabrook, who was stopped in his tracks on the left.

It was a largely uneventful start to the second half, but Saints were showing their power up front, turning over a threatening Sale lineout before winning a penalty at the scrum.

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Saints soon sent on four more replacements, and one of them, full-back Baker, scored with his first touch as he finished off a fantastic counter-attack that involved electric play from Tom Litchfield and Seabrook.

Savala missed the conversion to leave the gap at 14 points but with both sides going to their benches on a regular basis, the game soon lost any sort of rhythm.

There was to be a big injury blow for Saints before the end as Seabrook, who had only made his return from a long-term ankle issue on the previous weekend, was forced off.

He was able to walk from the field unassisted but it left a sour taste on the night for Saints.

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Saints: Hendy (Baker 52); Ramm (Seabrook 16), Litchfield, Odendaal (J Matavesi 62), Sleightholme (Glister 60); Savala, Garside (Weimann 72); Iyogun (A Waller 52 (E Waller 72)), Cruse (R Smith 40), Davison (Hill 52); Lockett, Mayanavanua (Moon 52); Lawes (Munga 40 (Mayanavanua 67)), Ludlam (c) (Scott-Young 60), Augustus (Graham 34).

Sale Sharks: Carpenter (Veainu 60); O’Flaherty (S James 60), R du Preez (c) (Bedlow 65), Ma’asi-White, Reed; Curtis, Warr (Quirke 40); Rodd (Harrison 24 (McIntyre 56)), Taylor (Creevy 40), Schonert (Harper 20); Wiese (Andrews 40), Beaumont (Bamber 40); van Rhyn, Dugdale (Woodman 60), JL du Preez.

Referee: George Selwood