Premiership: Northampton Saints 43-10 Sale Sharks

By Chris OsborneBBC Sport
Samu Manoa
Manoa registered his first ever Saints hat-trick
Northampton Saints (22) 43
Tries: K Pisi, Manoa (3), G Pisi, Fotuali'i Cons: Myler (4), Wilson Pen: Myler
Sale Sharks (3) 10
Try: Jennings Con: Ford Pen: Cipriani

Samu Manoa scored a hat-trick as Premiership leaders Northampton Saints made light work of Sale Sharks.

Saints were rarely troubled by the visitors and were three tries to the good at the break courtesy of Ken Pisi, Manoa and George Pisi.

Manoa added two more through powerful surges from the pack, before Mark Jennings finished a slick Sale move.

But Kahn Fotuali'i completed a six-try rout for Saints, who go three points clear at the top of the table.

It was an emotionally-charged day, with Saints remembering the life of supporter Luis Ghaut who, four months after leading the side out before their Premiership final victory, died of cancer last month aged 13.

Northampton barely needed any inspiration though, as Sale made it easy going for them, particularly in a first half that all but ended the contest.

Tough nut to crack
Northampton Saints have the Premiership's meanest defence - conceding only 82 points this season - and they top the try-scoring rankings with 24.

Sharks, who have had few problems scoring tries so far this season, actually saw plenty of the ball early on and had Saints pinned back in their own 22, but the home defence was as resolute as the visitors' was lightweight.

Stephen Myler had already landed a penalty when Ken Pisi jinked through a series of tackles to score a superb try.

And Sale gifted Saints a second as Marc Jones's attempt at a quick line-out deep in his own half drifted into the hands of Manoa, who wriggled over.

Danny Cipriani had the visitors on the board off the tee, but Sharks were once again fragile at the back as Myler's floated crossfield kick found the hands of Ken Pisi, before brother George collected and finished on the outside.

Sharks lack bite
Only bottom side London Welsh have conceded more points and more tries than Sharks.

It is likely Myler and Cipriani will be vying for the third fly-half spot in Stuart Lancaster's England squad for the autumn internationals, and it was the Saints man who nosed ahead with a measured display all afternoon.

Sale are still looking for back-to-back wins this season, and boss Steve Diamond will be frustrated at how easily his side wilted a week after seeing off Wasps 25-14.

They were done for when two barrages from the Saints pack clinched two separate scores for Manoa, with Jennings restoring a sliver of credibility when he finished after Tom Brady broke free.

There was still time for Fotuali'i to snatch a lose ball and score to send Saints into next week's European Rugby Champions Cup opener against Racing Metro in high spirits.

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton:

"The scoreline was comfortable but I think Sale had a fair share of possession. We were ruthless in attack.

"There are times when you go to your strengths of the maul and the scrum but we combined that with playing as well. If you've got both, back rows don't know what to do.

"Ken Pisi has been one player who has really improved this year. He's been quality. He deserves to get into that Samoan squad.

"The attitude of the players to put their bodies on the line and keep their shape and focus was outstanding."

Northampton: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Dickson; A Waller, Haywood, Ma'afu; Lawes, Day; Wood (capt), Fisher, Manoa.

Replacements: Hartley, E Waller, Denman, Dowson, Clark, Fotuali'i, Wilson, North.

Sale: McLean; Brady, Leota, Jennings, Arscott; Cipriani, Cusiter; Harrison, Jones, Cobilas; Beaumont, Paterson; Lund, Seymour (capt), Easter.

Replacements: Neild, Di Marchi, Lewis-Roberts, Mills, Fihaki, Cliff, Ford, Forsyth.

Attendance: 13,459

Referee: Andrew Small (RFU).