Sale Sharks produced an impressive display to end a three-game losing run following a comfortable 22-10 triumph over Northampton Saints at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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The Sharks were excellent in the opening quarter and deservedly went 10-0 in front through Chris Ashton’s try and Rob du Preez’s penalty, but the Saints hit back.

Dan Biggar kicked a three-pointer before Lewis Ludlam powered over to level the scores at the interval.

Northampton were the better side going into half-time but Sale controlled matters brilliantly in the second period and touched down twice via Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Akker van der Merwe.

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They also went in search of the bonus point but the hosts failed to take a number of opportunities that presented themselves.

Steve Diamond’s men have struggled to find their rhythm this season, despite going into the round six action in fifth position, but they were much improved.

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The Sharks played with far more intensity, with powerhouse hooker Van der Merwe to the fore, and fly-half Du Preez rewarded their dominance with a penalty.

Sale built on that opening attack and continued to build pressure on the visitors. Northampton were not helping themselves, however, and mistakes allowed the hosts to dominate possession and territory.

One such error, from the usually reliable Cobus Reinach, then resulted in the Sharks opening up a 10-point buffer as the scrum-half’s pass was intercepted and finished by Ashton.

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Northampton were under pressure but, to their credit, they responded excellently and reduced the arrears via the accurate kicking of Biggar.

It was the spark the visitors needed and a superb Rory Hutchinson break moved the away side to within inches of the line. An infringement from the Sharks halted the move but, from the resultant lineout, Ludlam touched down to level matters at the break.

The Saints had finished the first half the brighter, creating a number of opportunities, but half-time came at the wrong moment and enabled Diamond’s team to regroup.

Sale began the second period on the front foot with their power runners causing problems for the visiting rearguard. Janse van Rensburg had already shown his quality by barrelling through would-be tacklers and a few minutes later the centre did the same to score and give the Sharks a 17-10 advantage.

Chris Boyd’s men were back under duress and they conceded soon after as a dominant driving maul from the hosts resulted in the prolific Van der Merwe touching down.

That left Northampton outfit with plenty to do and they struggled to get through a sturdier opposition defence. As a result, Sale dictated proceedings and should have crossed the whitewash for the fourth time, but they were unable to secure the bonus point.

Press Association

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