Saints return to winning ways
September 27, 2013
Northampton's George North celebrates notching his first Premiership try for the club
© PA Photos
George North opened his try-scoring account as Northampton returned to winning ways with a 33-14 victory over Sale at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night.
The British Lions winger was one of five try-scorers for the Saints as they powered past the Sharks despite suffering the only yellow card of the game. Luther Burrell, George Pisi, Lee Dickson and Phil Dowson also touched down and Stephen Myler kicked four conversions for the hosts. Mark Cueto and Marc Jones scored tries for Sale.
Even though Danny Cipriani was short with a 50-metre penalty effort in the opening minutes it was Sale who started the better. A well structured move got them into the home 22. Captain and former All Black Dan Braid got in behind the Northampton defence down the right touchline, but chose not to pass to Cueto on his outside and was hauled down eight metres short.
Instead Northampton opened the scoring with their first visit to the 22, with Dylan Hartley softening up the Sharks defence before Burrell scythed through from 10 metres out. Myler, in his 200th game for Northampton, knocked over the conversion.
North scored his first try in his fourth game since signing for Northampton - and it was one of the easiest of his career. Sustained pressure saw Jamie Elliott get within inches of the line before he popped up an offload for the big Welshman to dot down in the left corner.
It was already looking like a routine win for Northampton and their third try came after 30 minutes when Dickson ran round on the loop from a lineout and spotted a big gap before offloading for Pisi to dive between the posts. Myler made it 19-0.
Salnts were putting in some big hits in defence, but Cipriani managed to offload while being poleaxed by Burrell and as Sale homed in on the try-line, Calum Clark was forced to kill the ball on the five-metre line. Referee David Rose had no hesitation in showing him the yellow card.
With the clock dead Cueto finally made Sale's extra man and intense pressure tell as he cut back on a hard line, blasting past two tacklers to touch down for Cipriani to convert and make it 19-7 at the break. Cipriani missed a relatively simple penalty while Clark was still off the pitch and with their full compliment Northampton sealed the bonus point try.
After 50 minutes Sale brought on four replacements, while Northampton sent on just Samu Manoa and it was the American who made the biggest impact, powering through the white line and offloading to Clark to set the ball rolling.
Northampton smashed their way up to the Sale try-line and Dickson, who was outstanding in front of England coaches Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree, faked a pass to Burrell before squirming over. Elliott looked to have scored a stunning fifth try as he collected his own kick, but the TMO showed the ball had clipped the touchline before bouncing back into his arms.
Phil Dowson did score Northampton's fifth after a fantastic break from number eight Sam Dickinson, who seared through the white line and sidestepped a tackler before offloading. A couple of passes later and Dowson had squirmed over. In the final minute Sale had some compensation with a lineout drive handing Jones a try.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder was pleased to see North get off the mark. "He has got that out of the way now," said Mallinder. "He was good tonight, tidy. He is taking his time, settling in and he is playing well for us. We are pleased with the way he is going. We played outstanding at times tonight; some of our attacking play and tempo was very good."
Mallinder put the high tempo performance from Northampton down to the performance of scrum-half Lee Dickson, who has seen his place in the side challenged this season by the arrival of Samoan Kahn Fotuali'i from Ospreys.
Mallinder said: "I didn't have any doubts about how Lee would respond. As soon as we wanted to sign Kahn I spoke to Lee and he more or less said 'yeah, bring it on'. The energy you get from him is absolutely fantastic, and that is magnified in terms of the way the rest of players play - he was the heart and soul of our side tonight.
"Jamie Elliott was very good as well. His kick-chase in the first half, where he bounced back on to his feet, we were unlucky not to score there and he was unlucky with his kick and chase round the man in the second half - he was the pick of the wingers today."
Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond had no complaints about the defeat and despite the scoreline was encouraged by some aspects of his team's play. "We were beaten by a better team," said Diamond. "They got 19 points in front and we couldn't compete with them really.
"We managed to sort our set-piece out and compete with them in that area, but we made a couple of field position errors in the first half and they capitalised on it. It is easy to stick the cue back in the rack in games like this, but we kept going and I was pleased with quite a lot of it to be honest."
Northampton's Lee Dickson off loads the ball under pressure during the clas at Franklin's Gardens © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.
Kieran Read beats All Blacks team-mates Ben Smith and Liam Messam to lift the Kel Tremain Memorial Trophy two days after being crowned International Rugby Board World Player of the Year
Seven All Blacks are named by their peers in the inaugural International Rugby Players Association World XV, with Kieran Read taking out another Player of the Year award
Richie McCaw has only just returned to New Zealand after touring Europe with the All Blacks but already he is keen to get back to Crusaders training, saying: "to be honest the last three Super Rugby seasons I either haven't played or been injured so I've
World rugby has paid tribute to Nelson Mandela after the great man - Madiba - passed away at his home in South Africa today, aged 95
John McEnroe believes Andy Murray can emulate Rafael Nadal's return from injury, as the Scot continues his rehabilitation after back surgery