Teimana Harrison scored on his return from injury as Northampton recorded a vital 17-14 victory over Sale that put their Gallagher Premiership play-off hopes back on track. Harrison, who had been out for over two months with hand and groin troubles, grabbed Saints’ only try of the game, to add to four penalties from the boot of James Grayson.
The hosts repeatedly needed to defend doggedly at Franklin’s Gardens in what was a tight contest and the end result is them moving to within two points of the fourth-placed Sharks in the table. A succession of early penalties allowed Sale to build some early pressure, with Jean-Luc du Preez being tackled just a few metres short of the line after being played in by his twin brother Dan.
It took until just the 10th minute for referee Matthew Carley to lose patience with Northampton’s indiscipline, as he sent Ollie Sleightholme to the sin bin, following the latest infringement. Saints’ defence was just about holding firm, as Jean-Luc du Preez was held up over the line after a succession of pick-and-goes from the Sharks’ forwards.
Despite being down to 14 men, it was the hosts who opened the scoring in the 19th minute, as Harrison burrowed over after Tommy Freeman had been tackled just short. Grayson slid the conversion wide just as Sleightholme returned to the field, but the fly-half was able to extend Northampton’s lead with a penalty after Sale had illegally sealed off a ruck.
The home side retained their 8-0 advantage into half-time, although they had a scare in the early stages of the second half after Tom James’ kick was charged down by Sale captain Jono Ross. The Sharks’ discipline then let them down as a penalty, given against Lood de Jager at a lineout, was marched 10 metres further forward for backchat, allowing Grayson to add another three points.
A tense battle at Franklin’s Gardens and it’s the hosts @SaintsRugby who hold on for the victory! ?
The visitors fought back hard in the second half but Saints closed it out for an important W ?
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) March 13, 2021
AJ MacGinty then missed a chance to get Sale on the board with a penalty of his own and Grayson punished the USA fly-half with a fantastic kick from halfway that extended the gap to 14-0. It was soon narrowed, however, as Jean-Luc de Preez broke away from a powerful driving maul to stretch over, with MacGinty able to add the conversion.
Grayson quickly took Northampton more than a score clear again with his fourth penalty, but just three points separated the sides following South Africa lock Lood de Jager’s converted try off a rolling maul. That set up a breathless finish where the Sharks kept hold of the ball for countless phases off the final play, only for Tom Wood to come up with an interception that led to Henry Taylor belting the ball off the pitch for the win.
Northampton Saints will field an all-English XV for today's match at Franklin’s Gardens.https://t.co/YYgcaOTkNq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 13, 2021
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