|Northampton: (7) 14|
|Tries: Tuala, Mitchell Cons: Biggar 2|
|Sale: (22) 34|
|Tries: L James 2, Penalty, Hammersley, Van Rensburg, Morozov Cons:R Du Preez|
England players Manu Tuilagi and Courtney Lawes were injured as Sale beat Northampton in the Premiership.
Saints forward Lawes suffered a knee injury in the eighth minute and Tuilagi hurt his Achilles four minutes later.
Two Luke James scores, a penalty try and one from Simon Hammersley sealed the bonus point for Sale before half-time as Ahsee Tuala replied for Saints.
Alex Mitchell’s try further reduced the gap before Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Valeri Morozov took Sale clear.
The bonus-point win keeps the Sharks’ hopes of reaching the play-offs in their own hands as they consolidated fourth place in the Premiership with one game to go.
Northampton remain seventh and need one point from their final game of the season at Gloucester to guarantee a Champions Cup place for next season.
Injury worries for club and country
The injuries to Lawes and Tuilagi – who both started last year’s World Cup final defeat to South Africa – will be a major concern to England boss Eddie Jones, whose side play their final re-arranged Six Nations fixture against Italy in a month’s time, with the Autumn Nations Cup starting a fortnight later.
Three minutes after conceding the first try Northampton lost their defensive talisman as second-row Lawes was helped off the field after landing awkwardly as he challenged for a high ball.
He later re-emerged with his right leg elevated on a tackle bag as he watched the game on the side-lines.
Sale centre Tuilagi also needed assistance to leave the field after injuring his left Achilles when he was hauled down by Saints defenders after a powerful run from just inside his own 22.
In his sixth game since his summer move from Leicester, Tuilagi used a pair of crutches as he returned to the stands – a worrying sight for his new employers bearing in mind his awful record with injuries over the past few years.
Sale’s problems were compounded when second-row Cobus Wiese was also forced off in the early part of the game, while just after the hour mark Northampton and Wales fly-half Dan Biggar limped off and had an ice pack put on his left thigh after converting Mitchell’s second-half try.
Sale’s biggest win at Franklin’s Gardens
Northampton’s evening started badly when James went over in the corner after an excellent looping pass from Dan du Preez, and after a series of mauls deep in Saints territory were pulled down, referee Wayne Barnes called a penalty try and sin-binned Api Ratuniyarawa.
Despite being a man down Saints hit back as Tuala cut an excellent line after some intricate passing in the Sale 22, but the lead was stretched to 10 points when Biggar misjudged Luke James’ grubber kick, allowing it to go through his legs and letting the Sale full-back go over unchallenged.
Shaun Adendorff had a pushover try for Northampton ruled out after a video replay five minutes before the break and Sale punished them again as Hammersley dived over in the left corner after van Rensburg’s run had set up the field position.
Northampton scrum-half Mitchell pulled a try back after an hour as he jinked between a couple of defenders before making his way over after Biggar’s tap penalty had set them up on the Sale line.
Sale extended their lead in the final 10 minutes – Faf De Klerk picked out compatriot van Rensburg on the blindside and he dived into the right corner and the sixth try followed at the death as Russian replacement Morozov forced his way over from a couple of metres out.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond told BT Sport:
“We’ve got a tremendous record for injury at Sale over the past 10 years, but we’ve been finishing seventh, eighth and ninth, and to get into the top four you have to put your bodies where you’ve not put them before I think.
“We think it’s Manu’s Achilles, we won’t know until tomorrow, and Cobus Wiese seems to be his knee.
“I don’t think they’ll be in contention for the weekend, but it goes with the territory.”
Northampton Saints: Furbank; Naiyaravoro,Proctor, Dingwall, Tuala; Biggar, Mitchell; Iyogun, Matavesi, Franks; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Ludlam (capt), Adendorff.
Replacements: Fish, Seville, Painter, Isiekwe, Harrison, Francis, Taylor, Olowofela.
Sale Sharks: James; Van Rensburg, S James, Tuilagi, Hammersley; R Du Preez, De Klerk; Harrison, Langdon, Oosthuizen; Wiese, JL Du Preez, Ross (capt), T Curry, D Du Preez.
Replacements: Van Der Merwe, Morozov, Cooper-Woolley, Phillips, Neild, Cliff, MacGinty, Yarde.
Referee: Wayne Barnes