Premiership: Sale Sharks 20-7 Northampton Saints
|Sale (13) 20|
|Tries: Lewis-Roberts, Braid Cons: Cipriani 2 Pens: Cipriani 2|
|Northampton (0) 7|
|Tries: Harrison Cons: Myler|
Sale Sharks produced an excellent performance to beat Northampton Saints and bring the Premiership leaders' five-match winning run to an end.
The hosts had much the better of the first half, with a couple of Danny Cipriani penalties and Eifion Lewis-Roberts's try putting them 13-0 ahead.
Dan Braid, back in the Sale side after a knee injury, touched down to extend the lead to 20 points after the break.
Teimana Harrison's 65th-minute try for Saints proved to be only a consolation.
It was a significant victory for Sale, who were easily beaten by Northampton at Franklin's Gardens in October and, having suffered two Premiership defeats in a row, had slipped to seventh in the table.
Saints were boosted by the return of England forwards Alex Corbisiero and Tom Wood at a gusty AJ Bell Stadium, but found themselves behind early on after two penalties from Sharks fly-half Cipriani, whose club future is set to be decided within the next fortnight.
With Northampton struggling at the set-piece, Cipriani turned down a further three-point opportunity and instead headed to the corner, but the away side managed to hold the ball up despite Sale's catch and drive sending them over the try-line.
However, following a series of scrums five metres out, Saints lock Sam Dickinson was sin-binned and Lewis-Roberts eventually forced his way over to score the try the hosts' pressure merited.
Shortly after Saints fly-half Stephen Myler put a penalty wide of the posts early in the second period, Northampton went down to 14 men for the second time following a yellow card for Calum Clark.
And, as in the first half, Sale almost immediately made their numerical advantage count, with Braid touching down after another rolling maul and Cipriani again able to add the extras.
Harrison crashed over to get Northampton off the mark with 15 minutes left but, despite concerted late pressure, Sale held firm to complete an eye-catching win.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond on fly-half Danny Cipriani:
"I think it's unfair for Danny if his selection for England should be picked on the performance of the team all the time.
"Danny played well but he's been playing well all year - if he doesn't get an opportunity then that's up to the England selectors.
"On the basis of the past three months in the European Champions Cup and the league, he deserves a shot.
"If he doesn't get picked and he goes then we will find somebody else, so that's the way it happens at Sale and there's no other way you can look at it."
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton:
"It was difficult conditions; we didn't get any territory or dominance and credit to Sale, they got a grip in the set-piece.
"Losing a man, that just comes from being under pressure and defending on your line.
"But I thought we came back well in the second half, we showed some real spirit, and were probably unlucky not to sneak a bonus point.
"They picked a big side, we found that in the maul and in the scrum, and we did miss some key players. Hopefully we'll have more options next week and we'll see a different side against Ospreys."
Sale Sharks: Haley; Addison, Leota, Tuitupou, Cueto; Cipriani, Cusiter; Lewis-Roberts, Jones, Cobilas; Mills, Hines; Braid (capt), Lund, Beaumont.
Replacements: Neild, de Marchi, Harrison, Ioane, Seymour, Cliff, Macleod, Arscott.
Northampton Saints: Foden; Elliott, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson; Corbisiero, Haywood, Ma'afu; Dickinson, Clark; Wood (capt), Nutley, Dowson.
Replacements: Williams, A Waller, Denman, Onojaife, Harrion, Hodgson, Wilson, K Pisi.