Hollow victory for Sharks
Sale's bid for a Guinness Premiership play-off place ended in disappointment despite a bonus-point win over Northampton.
Last Updated: 25/04/09 6:07pm
Sale's bid for a Guinness Premiership play-off place ended in disappointment despite the fact they closed their season with a bonus-point win over Northampton.
The 2006 champions ran in four tries with departing captain Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Eifion Roberts, Dean Schofield and Mathew Tait all touching down in a 24-18 victory, but results elsewhere meant the scoreline was ultimately immaterial.
Triumphs for London Irish, Bath and Harlequins ensured Sale finished outside the top four for the third successive season and the Sharks now face a period of upheaval with several key players leaving Edgeley Park in the summer.
Lobbe, Lionel Faure, Sebastien Bruno, Sebastien Chabal and Jason White all made their final appearances for the club on Saturday, while injured centre Luke McAlister has already confirmed his intention to return to New Zealand.
Northampton played their part in a lively encounter, contributing a try in each half with Neil Best and Sean Lamont getting on the scoresheet.
Saints fly-half Stephen Myler had the chance to kick his side into a seventh minute lead, but could not find the target with a penalty and the visitors were punished midway through the half when Lobbe broke from a crowd of players to gallop to the line and score in the corner.
Charlie Hodgson was unable to add the extras from a tough angle and Northampton got off the mark in the 30th minute when Myler landed a penalty.
The Saints then edged their noses in front at the break as Best crashed over from close range.
Under the posts
Sale really ought to have extended their lead, but Hodgson knocked on when well-placed following good work from Richard Wigglesworth and Best made sure Northampton took full advantage of that let-off and he charged on to a neat pass to power under the posts - Myler adding the extras.
However, they ended the half a man light as full-back Chris Ashton was sin-binned for a professional foul.
They were back to their full compliment by the time Sale took the game by the scruff of the neck on 53 minutes with two tries in the space of five minutes.
First Welsh prop Roberts rumbled over in the left corner and then shortly afterwards Schofield charged through at pace, with the Northampton defence unable to stop his run to the line.
Hodgson converted only the second of the scores and Myler brought Northampton back to within four points at 17-13 when he stroked over his second penalty of the game on 61 minutes.
But Sale finally wrapped up the points their performance had deserved seven minutes from time as Tait waltzed through a posse of players to conjure a superb individual try that Hogdson converted.
There was still time for Lamont to demonstrate his pace and finishing ability with a clinical score down the left flank, but it was too little too late as Sale held on for a victory, albeit a hollow one.