Tom Vickers’ Northampton Saints v Sale Sharks preview

BIG WIN - James Wilson was on the scoresheet when Saints smashed Sale 47-7 in April (picture by Linda Dawson)
BIG WIN - James Wilson was on the scoresheet when Saints smashed Sale 47-7 in April (picture by Linda Dawson)

Clashes with Sale have tended to come at pivotal points for Saints in recent times - and Friday night’s showdown at Franklin’s Gardens is no different.

Jim Mallinder’s men go into the game desperate to get back on the horse following the untimely kick in the teeth at Gloucester last weekend.

Billy Twelvetrees’ penalty after the clock had gone dead was like a dagger through the heart of a Saints team who had battled back from 23-18 down to lead with seconds remaining.

But this week’s game against a Sale side hit by several injuries should provide them with some welcome relief.

Last season when Saints needed a pick-me up, the Sharks obliged, sinking without a trace in the Salford fog in November.

In the build-up to that game, pressure had been mounting on Mallinder and his men, who had struggled for form and were finding the tryline tough to find.

But three scores in a first-half blitz brought some much-needed relief as the gloom surrounding the club lifted slightly with a 27-16 win.

And after a fine late-season run put them in position for a place in the play-offs, Sale again arrived to do Saints a favour, with a young side being easily beaten in Northampton in April.

That resounding 47-7 success ensured Saints didn’t need to go marching into the final regular-season game at The Stoop a week later needing a win. A top-four place had already been booked.

Now, Saints will hope for another comprehensive success to banish the Gloucester demons and provide some more forward momentum ahead of a massive October.

Tricky trips to Leicester Tigers and Castres lie in wait during the first two weeks of the month, with home games against Ospreys and Saracens following soon after.

The season is starting to pick up pace at home and abroad, meaning laying solid foundations is a must.

And you certainly wouldn’t bet against Saints claiming another key win against Sale this week.