Sensational Saints score nine tries as they smash Sale Sharks

Tom Collins scored twice for Saints on a memorable afternoon at Franklin's Gardens (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Collins scored twice for Saints on a memorable afternoon at Franklin's Gardens (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints produced a sensational display of attacking rugby as they systematically dismantled Sale Sharks 67-17 at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday afternoon.

The Sharks had headed to Northampton on a five-match unbeaten run in the Gallagher Premiership, but they were ripped apart by a rampant Saints side.

Chris Boyd's men bagged nine tries in total, taking their tally to an incredible 48 in five games.

Cobus Reinach and Tom Collins claimed two apiece, with captain Tom Wood, Ahsee Tuala, Taqele Naiyaravoro, George Furbank and Rory Hutchinson also on the scoresheet.

Saints did lose their first-choice half-back pairing to injuries during the game, with Dan Biggar coming off after just 20 minutes and Reinach withdrawn on 55.

But that did not disrupt the relentless hosts as they continued to pour forward and compound Sale's misery, earning revenge for the narrow November defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Saints had fallen 21-0 down in their Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final win against Newcastle Falcons a week earlier, but there was no repeat of that sloppy start on this occasion.

Boyd's men went ahead through a Biggar penalty after winning the first scrum of the day against a pack drilled by former Saints forwards coach Dorian West.

And it was to become an even more impressive opening to the game soon after as a rambunctious run from Lewis Ludlam opened the door for Reinach to score.

Biggar added the extras but Sale hit back straight away through an AJ MacGinty penalty.

But Saints cancelled that effort out rapidly as Biggar's restarts continued to cause problems for Sale and the away side infringed again, allowing the Saints fly-half to make it 13-3.

The home side were clearly fired up and they were playing some superb rugby, leaving the Sharks breathless.

After Naiyaravoro gathered on the edge of his own 22, he offloaded to Piers Francis and the centre timed his own pass perfectly for Reinach, allowing the No.9 to race down the left and score.

Biggar converted and Saints led 20-3 with just 14 frantic minutes gone.

The black, green and gold were flying at the Sharks from all angles and only a tap tackle on Furbank prevented a third score.

Saints were bossing every department of the game, with prop Francois van Wyk proving a penalty-winning machine at the breakdown early on.

Sale should have opened their try account on 21 minutes but they butchered a three on one as Byron McGuigan made the wrong decision and Tuala made the tackle to win a scrum.

It was then Saints' turn to waste a huge chance as Naiyaravoro did superbly to release Tuala, whose pass was just behind Hutchinson, allowing Sale to scramble and ground the centre.

But it wasn't long before the home side had their third try as Wood cut a lovely line and showed great strength to get the ball down.

Francis, kicking because Biggar had earlier been replaced due to an injury, landed the conversion and Saints were in complete control.

But Sale finally managed to respond as a dominant lineout drive forced referee Karl Dickson to award a penalty try, cutting the gap to 17 points.

However, Saints responded in style and after some clever combination play between Francis and Hutchinson, Jamie Gibson offloaded superbly for Collins to score in the corner.

It was the bonus-point score before the break and though Francis missed the conversion, Saints were given a standing ovation as they left the field at half-time.

And they picked up where they left off after the restart as Tuala made the initial inroads and eventually finished a flowing team move that Sale simply couldn't handle.

Francis converted with aplomb from the touchline and the Sharks were submerged at the Gardens.

But they did manage to respond as Denny Solomona scored in the corner with an acrobatic finish that came after Tuala put in a huge hit to stop McGuigan on the other wing.

MacGinty converted and there was soon some concern for Reinach who was down for some time with a neck injury before leaving the field to a huge ovation.

Saints continued to come at Sale with speed and strength and Naiyaravoro etched his name on the scoresheet after picking the ball up at the breakdown and charging home.

Francis kicked and the Sharks were well and truly sunk, still facing another 17 minutes of action against a relentless Northampton side.

Furbank, who had been strutting his stuff at fly-half since Biggar was forced off, was next to score as Sale looked totally deflated.

Francis kicked again to make it 53-17 before Hutchinson picked up the ball in his own 22 and sprinted home, throwing the ball into the crowd in delight.

Francis converted to bring up the 60 points for Saints and there was still time for arguably the most eye-catching score of the game.

Collins started it and finished it, sprinting from his own 22, chipping ahead for Alex Mitchell, who gathered impressively and offloaded even more impressively for Collins to score.

Francis converted and the noise reverberated around a jubilant Gardens.

Collins thought he had completed his hat-trick when he crossed the whitewash again from the final play of the game, but his effort was ruled out.

It mattered not to the team as a whole though as they were greeted with adulation by the home support at the end of a memorable afternoon.

Saints: Furbank; Tuala (Burrell 63), Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Biggar (Collins 20), Reinach (Mitchell 55); van Wyk (Waller 55), Fish (Marshall 55), Painter (Hill 50), Ratuniyarawa (Coles 66), Moon; Gibson, Ludlam (Brüssow 63), Wood (c).

Sale Sharks: S James; Solomona, O’Connor (L James 62), Janse van Rensburg, McGuigan (Reed 67); MacGinty, de Klerk (Cliff 62); Harrison (Bristow 25), Webber (Neild 62), John (Jones 62); Evans, Phillips; Ross (c), B Curry, Beaumont.

Referee: Karl Dickson

Taqele Naiyaravoro turned in a huge try-scoring performance

Taqele Naiyaravoro turned in a huge try-scoring performance

Skipper Tom Wood led from the front

Skipper Tom Wood led from the front