A four-try first-half blitz from Northampton Saints saw them run out comfortable 28-14 victors over Sale Sharks on Thursday.
A four-try first-half blitz from Northampton Saints saw them run out comfortable 28-14 victors over Sale Sharks on Thursday, reaching the Challenge Cup semi-final.
Tries from Sam Dickinson, Ben Foden, and a brace from openside Ben Nutley – all converted by Will Hooley – were enough to see off a late Sharks rally.
It was the hosts, however, who struck first, with highly-rated prop Henry Thomas crashing over from close range early on, and Nick Macleod adding the extras.
The lead proved to be short-lived, as Nutley hit back off an unstoppable Saints maul minutes later, falling over the line for one of the easiest finishes you're likely to see in professional rugby. Hooley, bouncing back well from a disappointing display against Leicester Tigers last week, slotted the conversion.
There followed a disastrous twelve minute period for the hosts, whose pack were being outplayed and out-driven by the Saints eight. Dickinson powered over for try number two just before the half hour mark, before Hooley's deft grubber into the in-goal area was grounded by the onrushing Foden.
Thomas saw the flash of Romain Poite's yellow card as he infringed once too many at scrum-time, and things were to get yet worse for Steve Diamond's men as Nutley flopped over for what was almost a carbon copy of his first try.
Sale battled admirably in the second half, but failed to muster much in the way of meaningful attack. Viliami Fahiki was at the heart of the Sharks' drive, giving a frustrated home crowd hope of a comeback, but even the impressive James Craig's sin-binning late on could not yield further points for their side.
The Saints do indeed go marching on, as they secure a home semi-final and another potential shot at silverware against either Stade FranÃ§ais or Harlequins.
Tries: Thomas, Fahiki
Cons: Macleod, Ford
Yellow card: Thomas (repeated collapse of scrum)
Tries: Nutley 2, Dickinson, Foden
Cons: Hooley 4
Yellow card: Craig (collapsing maul)
Sale Sharks: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Andy Forsyth, 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Rob Miller, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Viliami Fahiki, 7 Mark Easter, 6 James Gaskell (capt), 5 Kirill Kulemin, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Aston Croall, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Phil Mackenzie.
Northampton: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 James Wilson, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Fa'atoina Autagavaia, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Lee Dickson, 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 7 Ben Nutley, 6 Phil Dowson (c), 5 James Craig, 4 Sam Dickinson, 3 Tom Mercey, 2 Ross McMillan, 1 Ethan Waller.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 18 Gareth Denman, 19 Christian Day, 20 Teimana Harrison, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Dom Waldouck, 23 Jamie Elliott.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Neil Paterson (Scotland)
TMO: Ian Ramage (Scotland)