Northampton Saints 53-24 Sale Sharks, Aviva Premiership, April 2
Mallinder upbeat ahead of Ulster clash
ESPNscrum Staff
April 2, 2011
Northampton prop Brian Mujati charges over to score, Northampton v Sale, Aviva Premiership, Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England, April 2, 2011
Brian Mujati charges through to score during Northampton's rout of Sale at Franklin's Gardens © Getty Images

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder was relieved after his side finally managed to kill off a spirited Sale Sharks side in the second half of their entertaining Aviva Premiership clash at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday.

The hosts ultimately ran out easy 53-24 winners, running in eight tries in total. Two came courtesy of referee David Jones, who awarded the Saints a penalty try in either half after some ferocious scrummaging from the Saints front-row, while Lee Dickson, Chris Ashton, Brian Mujati, Tom Wood, Bruce Reihana and Phil Dowson all contributed one touchdown apiece.

It was a far from facile victory, though, as Sale had drawn to within five points courtesy of a try from Wame Lewaravu when hooker Neil Briggs picked up a second yellow card for a shoulder charge seconds later. As Mallinder conceded, the dismissal of Briggs and the earlier loss of scrum-half Dwayne Peel to injury had played a huge part in the Sharks' eventual collapse.

"Sale were struggling a little bit up front," he said. "But they put us under a lot of pressure in the first 40 or 50 minutes. They will have been disappointed to lose Peel to injury, and then with the sending-off. But they have some good players and people like Charlie Hodgson can make them play. At half-time we were still not in the clear, despite scoring our first-half tries."

Northampton's impressive points tally owed much to the fact that they repeatedly turned down shots on goal in favour of lineouts and scrums. According to Mallinder, the decision to go for tries was a joint-decision made between the coaching staff and the players.

"It's about reading the situation and when your forwards are in so much control it makes sense to keep the pressure on," he said. "The players know how the mauls and scrums are going and whether or not they should kick their goals."

The victory, which was Northampton's third in a row, sets them up nicely for next weekend's Heineken Cup showdown with Ulster, with Mallinder commenting: "It's going to be a really tough game, but it's one we are capable of winning."

Sale's executive director of sport Steve Diamond failed to show for his scheduled post-match press conference but the aforementioned Peel did reveal that he had suffered no serious damage after being stretchered from the field following an awkward collision with Calum Clark.

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