Premiership: Northampton Saints sink Sale Sharks after Manu Tuilagi red, London Irish continue their playoff charge
Northampton Saints defeated Sale Sharks 38-34 at Franklin’s Gardens after Manu Tuilagi saw red early on in the Premiership fixture.
Fraser Dingwall scored the match-winner for Northampton Saints as they completed a remarkable comeback against Sale Sharks on Saturday. Sale will rue their ill discipline with Tuilagi sent off, and Cobus Wiese and Ewan Ashman yellow-carded in the defeat.
Sale Sharks raced into a 19-0 lead after just 22 minutes, with Arron Reed, Tom Curry and Robert du Preez finding their way over the whitewash. Du Preez converted the latter two scores.
Before du Preez’s try, Manu Tuilagi was red-carded on his return from England duty, with the centre making contact with Tommy Freeman’s throat in a carry.
Northampton managed to get on the scoreboard with Tom James dotting down in the 23rd minute, but Sale responded swiftly as Ewan Ashman touched down just before halftime to give Sale a 7-24 lead at the break.
Freeman kicked started Saints’ comeback in the second half, dotting eight minutes after the break with a penalty try and scores from Matt Proctor, Callum Braley and Dingwall, seeing the Saints to victory. Sam Dugale scored Sale’s only try of the second half, du Preez adding the conversion and a penalty.
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Second-placed Sale had struck first as Rob du Preez fired the ball crossfield for Arron Reed to dot down.
But the Sharks were soon hit with a hammer blow as Tuilagi was
red carded for a blatant forearm to the head of Freeman.
Northampton were soon dealt a big blow of their own as they lost George Furbank to injury.
And Sale struck again as Tom Curry, on his return from injury, found his way through.
Du Preez converted, and Northampton were not making the most of their extra man.
It was to get even worse soon after as Sale penned the Saints in and won possession back, sending du Preez through for his side’s third try in the opening 22 minutes.
The home fans were restless, but Tom James soon lifted them as he finished off a fine run from Freeman.
Fin Smith converted, and the gap was 12 points, but Sale Sharks hooker Ashman forced his way over from another powerful line-out drive.
Du Preez added a penalty to the tally early in the second half after the Sharks showed their teeth at scrum time.
Sale were reduced to 13 men when Wiese was yellow carded for a high hit on Smith, and Northampton Saints scored quickly as Freeman went over.
Smith converted, and the Saints had some momentum, which they capitalised on when Matt Proctor scored out wide.
Wiese returned with the gap at eight points with 21 minutes to play.
But Sale soon made the most of Wiese’s return, putting together another big maul, from which Sam Dugdale scored.
Du Preez converted, but Northampton bagged their bonus-point try when referee Ian Tempest awarded them a penalty try, giving Ashman a yellow card for pulling down the maul.
The Saints then cut the gap further when Tom Collins broke the line and gave the ball to Braley, who scored.
And Northampton Saints led when Collins set up another score, firing the ball to the right for Dingwall to dive over.
There was still two minutes to go as Sale sought to overturn the four-point deficit, but the Saints stood tall and saw the game out.
The Sharks pushed for one final score, but they could not get it as Northampton celebrated a memorable Premiership win.
London Irish ease past Bath
Meanwhile, London Irish strengthened their credentials for a top-four finish in the Premiership with a comfortable 25-10 victory that ruined Bath’s homecoming to the Rec after a seven-week absence.
Tries by Paddy Jackson, Ben White and Bernhard van Rensburg wrested control of the game as Bath had three players sin-binned, leaving them with 13 men at one stage in the second half. Jackson also contributed two conversions and two penalties.
Unusually, Bath were kept scoreless in the second half after a try by Josh Bayliss, converted by Ben Spencer, who also kicked a penalty.
The Premiership encounter began in furious fashion, with Joe Cokanasiga carrying hard and Bayliss charging even further upfield before the Exiles regrouped and responded with an inch-perfect penalty to the corner by Jackson.
The resulting line-out provided a solid platform for Augustin Creevy to launch himself at the try line, only for the Argentinian hooker to be hauled back by Sam Underhill before Bayliss won a priceless turnover at the following ruck.
With skipper Spencer increasingly influential, Bath were rewarded after 20 minutes when Bayliss squirmed over the line from close range. Exiles second row Rob Simmons trudged off to the sin bin for his team’s persistent infringements as Spencer added the conversion.
The response came immediately. Fly-half Jackson, who had looked threatening throughout, latched on to an offload by flanker Tom Pearson and exchanged passes with full-back James Stokes down the right touchline before grounding the ball in Bayliss’s tackle.
Jackson added the conversion to level the scores, but Spencer restored Bath’s lead with a 26th-minute penalty.
Spencer had had much the better of his duel with Joe Powell, who gave way on the half hour to Ben White.
Not only did White inject much-needed tempo, but he finished off a spell of intense pressure with a try to the right of the Bath posts. Ruaridh McConnochie was shown a yellow card, and Jackson’s conversion attempt struck the bar, leaving London Irish 12-10 up at the break.
Piers Francis missed an easy chance to put Bath back in front in the second half, and Jackson kicked a penalty awarded against Spencer for a cynical offside, which earned him a spell in the sin bin too.
Bath found themselves down to 13 when replacement lock Fergus Lee-Warner saw yellow for a late tackle and were further punished when Van Rensburg took a short pass to run unopposed under the posts, just short of the hour mark.
Jackson’s conversion made it 22-10, and Bath’s persistent indiscipline allowed him to kick another penalty after 69 minutes which left the home side with a three-score margin to overcome.
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