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Aviva Premiership: Sale Sharks shock leaders Northampton Saints
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Premiership leaders Northampton suffered just their second defeat of the season, going down 19-6 to Sale Sharks at AJ Bell Stadium.
Saints were restricted to just two penalties from Will Hooley, while Sale showed plenty of attacking enterprise in the first half, crossing for tries from Mark Cueto, Marc Jones and Tom Brady.
The visitors took the lead early on as Hooley slotted over a penalty from long range, but an inspired break from Dwayne Peel provided the home side with the platform for the first try.
Peel danced around 40 yards down the field before being stopped. However, the damage had already been done, as the ball was quickly whipped out wide to Cueto, who touched down at the corner. Danny Cipriani converted to give Sale a four-point lead.
Northampton hit back when they won another penalty, which Hooley once again converted, but the Sharks defence was holding them out well.
In fact the home outfit had the chance to restore there four-point advantage shortly after, although Cipriani failed with his goal attempt.
Yet the confidence Sale had in their attack was clear when they turned down two kicks at goal to go for the power play. It was a decision they would not regret as they then went over for their second try of the afternoon when Jones forced his way over from close range.
Referee Luke Pearce then sought assistance from the video referee to deal with fighting that broke out after the score, which saw both Saints captain Dylan Hartley and Sale's Sam Tuitupou sent to the bin for their involvement before Cipriani missed the conversion.
Cipriani later took full advantage of the space created against a one man down defensive line as he grubbered in behind the visitors defence through to Brady. The winger squeezed in at the corner, with Cipriani then converting from the touchline to make it 19-6 at half time.
The pouring rain restricted any free-flowing play to a minimum in the second half.
The visitors piled on the pressure and were deep in Sharks territory for a prolonged periods, but a magnificent defensive effort saw the Sharks through to victory in the end, as both sides failed to register a point in the second half.
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|Friday 2nd January|
|19:45||Northampton vs Newcastle Falcons|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|16:30||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:00||Leicester Tigers vs Bath|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Saracens|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:00||Sale vs Northampton|
|15:00||Bath vs Wasps|
|15:15||Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Newcastle Falcons vs London Welsh|
|15:00||London Irish vs Exeter|
|Saturday 14th February|
|15:00||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Sunday 15th February|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|15:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|Friday 20th February|
|20:00||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Northampton|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com