Sale Sharks 29 Northampton Saints 22: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
There may have been three months between competitive matches, a director of rugby departure and several player exits, but what happened to Saints on Sunday wasn’t dissimilar to what occurred at Leicester back in June.

There were the positives: that they had plenty of first-half chances to turn the screw and that they fought until the very end.

However, there were also the negatives: that they failed to take chances that would have put them in control, and that they endured a spell in the game that took the possibility of a win away from them.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Saints once again went to toe toe with a physical team and were far from overawed.

George Furbank helped to celebrate Ollie Sleightholme's tryGeorge Furbank helped to celebrate Ollie Sleightholme's try
George Furbank helped to celebrate Ollie Sleightholme's try

But they could not piece things together to pick up points when it mattered most.

They gave themselves a mountain to climb but, as they did so often towards the end of last season, they never lost belief that they could scale it.

That was pleasing for Saints fans to see, because despite the summer departure of Chris Boyd, it showed they still have that fight under new boss Phil Dowson.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They also still have that ability to score tries, with Tom Collins, twice, and Ollie Sleightholme on the mark.

Those men played superbly, showing just how hot the competition for wing starts will be this season when you consider Courtnall Skosan will want to keep his place and Tommy Freeman will be eager to get his spot back when he returns from his rest period.

Matt Proctor can also play wide, while new signing James Ramm looked very useful during pre-season.

Saints do have strength in depth, and they do have a style that has worked for them.

What they now need is to put it all together.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

They can’t have games when their pack fronts up but their attacking game stutters, and vice versa.

Tough away trips require all-round excellence, and Saints couldn’t deliver that at Sale.

Having said that, they still salvaged a point, claiming something from a trip to Sale for the first time since November 2018.

Last season they were thrashed 30-6 by the Sharks in Salford, and they never won there under previous boss Boyd.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

You have to go back to 2017 for the last time Saints secured a victory at Sale, and it was 2012 before that when they had previously won a league game there.

To say it is an unhappy hunting ground is an understatement, but at times on Sunday it felt like the Sharks could be beaten.

They looked limited until a defensive lapse allowed the Sharks to bite.

And, to their credit, they really got their teeth stuck into Saints when they smelled blood in the second half.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But Dowson’s side kept battling, ensuring they would not go quietly.

And as the season goes on, that determination and self-confidence in tough environments can serve them well.

How they rated...

TOM COLLINS - CHRON STAR MAN - started at full-back and shone. Scored twice, didn’t put a foot wrong and emphasised the he has to start for Saints when he is available… 7.5

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME - has been so unlucky with injuries, but has so much potential. This was a striking reminder of just how good he is as he saved what looked like two certain Sale tries and scored one of his own… 7.5

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

MATT PROCTOR - buzzed around the park in typical fashion and made one break that looked like it would be key before Sale stopped him inside their own 22... 6.5

FRASER DINGWALL - did his best to make some inroads and saw plenty of the ball in the first half, but Sale eventually managed to half his progress at source... 6

COURTNALL SKOSAN - it would be unfair to mark him down for his sin-binning as it was a very harsh yellow card, and he was clearly fired up for this game, scrambling well and making a big hit on Tom O'Flaherty...6

JAMES GRAYSON - defended strongly when called upon and largely kicked well for his side in what was a steady showing overall... 7

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

ALEX MITCHELL - a mixed day for the scrum-half, who made a couple of good breaks but who also found himself suffocated by Sale on several occasions, leading to a loss of possession... 5.5

ALEX WALLER - tried to put his body on the line at the breakdown during the early stages of the game, but was not able to make the impact he would have hoped for and came off after 36 minutes... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD - largely helped to ensure the lineout functioned well and tried to push on in possession, though knocked on once or twice... 5.5

PAUL HILL - Sale were fired up at scrum time and it wasn't always easy as they pressured the Saints props, but this man did some reasonable work in open play... 5.5

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

LUKHAN SALAKAIA-LOTO - a really strong start from the Australian lock, beginning with a huge collision with Ben Curry that issued a statement of intent... 7

ALEX COLES - soldiered on for Saints, as he always does, but Sale did well to get around him and stop him freeing his hands in contact... 6.5

ANGUS SCOTT-YOUNG - looks to be a top lineout operator and he's not bad around the park either, looking to fit in with Saints style as he is always trying to move the ball quickly when he can... 7

AARON HINKLEY - held his hands up after shooting out of the line to allow Sale to score first, and he will have better days ahead this season... 5

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

JUARNO AUGUSTUS - kept ploughing on for Saints, getting more of the ball late on as he looked to push Sale to the limits with his physicality out wide... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

MANNY IYOGUN (for Waller 36) - some quick thinking late on helped Saints to secure the try that earned them a losing bonus point... 6.5

SAM MATAVESI (for Haywood 48) - added some extra sharpness but couldn't get his dancing feet moving in too much space as Sale shut things down well until Saints eventually got going... 5.5

ALFIE PETCH (for Hill 55) - not an easy game for a prop to come into as it really started to open up, dragging the big men around the park, but he played a part in the late fightback... 5.5

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

SAM GRAHAM (for Hinkley 55) - thundered into a couple of collisions and showed his desire to try to help Saints get back on track late on... 6

GEORGE FURBANK (for Skosan 55) - was beaten out wide for one Sale try but he had only just come on so it wasn't easy to adapt. He did get up and running late on, playing a key role in two tries... 6