Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

WE'RE HIGH AND MIGHTY ; Diamond Delighted as On-Song Sharks Crush Northampton to Stake Their Claim as Play-Off Contenders

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

WE'RE HIGH AND MIGHTY ; Diamond Delighted as On-Song Sharks Crush Northampton to Stake Their Claim as Play-Off Contenders

Article excerpt

SALE SHARKS................19 NORTHAMPTON .............6 Neil Leigh STEVE Diamond may be suffering from altitude sickness but, on Saturday's thrilling evidence, his Sale players are in no need of oxygen as their assault on the Premiership top four gathers pace.

A stunning win over star-studded title favourites Northampton not only sent shockwaves reverberating around English rugby, it also served as arguably Sale's most significant victory since their famous Heineken Cup win over Munster way back in 2005.

It's a measure of the scale of Sharks' achievement that, not only did they inflict only Northampton's second league defeat of the season, thanks to their incredible defence, which withstood a second half siege, Sale also became the first side to prevent Saints from scoring a try in more than 18 months.

And all this against a Northampton side boasting Welsh superstar George North along with England quartet Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Luther Burrell.

With five league games left, fifth-placed Sale are not only sitting pretty in terms of European qualification - with games against Bath, Harlequins and Leicester to come - they must now be seriously considered as play-off contenders, no matter how coy director of rugby Diamond is when pressed on the subject.

"If we can win two or three more games then we'll see where are and if we're in the top four, it's anybody's competition," Diamond declared.

"This time last year we were scrapping for our lives now we've got a bit of altitude sickness.

"We'll see how it is every week and the one thing we have got after last year's experience is togetherness. In tight games like Saturday that resolve comes through."

In effect, the way Sale dismantled Northampton served as the perfect microcosm of their season with their first 40 minutes conjuring up some thrilling, attacking rugby before their iron clad defensive wall of blue took centre stage after the break as the Saints sought to smash Sale's house down. …

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