Kahn Fotuali’i scored on his return to action as the Wanderers walloped Sale Jets 38-14 at Franklin’s Gardens on Monday night.
The Samoan scrum-half, who was playing for the first time since pulling his hamstring in Saints’ win over Exeter Chiefs on New Year’s Day, scored his team’s second try.
And Fotuali’i impressed throughout his 40 minutes on the field as part of a Wanderers side full of first-team players.
The strength of the squad Jim Mallinder selected was shown by the names on the scoresheet, with Fotuali’i joined by JJ Hanrahan, James Wilson, Tom Kessell, Ben Nutley and Pat Howard in dotting down in the victory.
There was also a first appearance in Northampton colours for loosehead prop Campese Ma’afu, younger brother of Salesi, who signed for Saints last week.
All in all, it was a successful night for the club, with a number of players, including Sion Bennett and the impressive Sam Olver, getting vital game time.
Sale had bossed the formative stages after earning a couple of penalties in home territory, but fly-half Tom Morton missed the chance to give the Jets the lead from the tee.
And the away side would soon rue that miss as their set piece, which had been wobbly early on, faltered again.
A lineout completely missed its intended target, giving Lewis Ludlam the chance to pick up the ball and hand it to Hanrahan, who broke the line to score.
The Irishman easily added the extras and his half-back partner was soon getting in on the try-scoring act as Fotuali’i surprised Sale with a quick tap penalty and darted over the line.
Hanrahan again converted to put the Wanderers 14-0 up after 24 minutes, but they were forced to make a change on the half-hour mark due to an injury to Tom Stephenson.
However, it wasn’t to blow the home side off course and a lovely move started by Fotuali’i and including a tidy offload from Gareth Denman ended with Olver’s neat cross-field kick ending up in the hands of full-back Wilson, who kept his nerve to score.
Hanrahan made it 21-0 with another conversion and, as would have been expected when looking at the teamsheets, the Wanderers were running away with it.
That was until Tom Brady, who will join Leicester Tigers for next season, punctured the home defence with a scything run.
The successful conversion cut the Wanderers’ lead to 14 points and skipper Reece Marshall could be heard imploring his team to wake up as they sought to preserve their advantage.
The coaches did their bit to freshen things up at the break as Fotuali’i’s return came to an end, with the Samoan kept on ice for future first-team matters.
He was replaced by Kessell, while Ma’afu was also thrust into the action, and the Wanderers made a flying start to the second half.
Kessell dotted down after good work from the forwards and Hanrahan added the extras.
Kessell was making an immediate impact and he soon turned provider, jinking inside and setting up Nutley, who had just come on for Jon Fisher, for a fine score.
Sale were in danger of shipping a big total, but they responded well and Charlie Ingall raced in for an intercept try, with Morton adding the extras.
The Wanderers weren’t fazed though and they had the final say, scoring a superb try as another nice kick from centre Olver started a move finished by summer signing Howard.
Wanderers: Wilson; Tuala (Duschene 68), Stephenson (Howard 30), Olver, Furbank; Hanrahan (Hutchinson 49), Fotuali’i (Kessell 40); E Waller (Ma’afu 40 (Beesley 68)), Marshall (Williams 40), Denman (Parkins 40); Moon, Onojaife (Peters 60); Fisher (Nutley 47), Ludlam, Bennett.
Sale: Jeffers; O’Donnell, Brady (Edwards 49), Tinknell, Ingall (Agyei 71); Morton, Mitchell (Dever 55); Flynn (Maher 64), Barry (Pope 40), Parker (Sanders 67); Nott, Postlethwaite; Rogerson (Miller-Mills 67), Hughes, Fihaki (Parfitt 55).
Referee: Veryan Poscawen