Quins lucky to escape
There was no dream start for new Director of Rugby John Mitchell, as his Sale Sharks side were comfortably beaten 27-16 by a dominant Northampton Saints in foggy conditions at Salford City Stadium on Friday.
The Sharks have now lost nine of their 10 Premiership starts and are firmly rooted at the bottom of the standings, destined for relegation if their fortunes don't change soon - a situation Mitchell is very familiar with.
Having been hailed as the 'saviour' of Sale - following his acrimonious departure from the Golden Lions in South Africa - he admitted that there is a long, tough road ahead if he was to turn around the struggling English club.
* In the other Premiership game on Friday Nick Evans' late drop-goal ensured reigning champions Harlequins emerged from an almighty scare with Worcester Warriors 22-19 winners.
We look at Friday's action!
Harlequins 22-19 Worcester Warriors
Nick Evans' late drop-goal ensured reigning Premiership champions Harlequins emerged from an almighty scare with Worcester Warriors 22-19 winners.
The New Zealand-born flyhalf held his nerve on 73 minutes with the scores at 19-19 to avenge last week's 21-18 defeat against Bath.
Evans finished with a 17-point haul and played a key part in Matt Hopper's first-half try that got the hosts back into the contest after a bright start from the Warriors.
Samoan international David Lemi, Worcester's leading try-scorer, added his fourth of the Premiership season early on and Errie Claassens joined him on the scoresheet but they could not prevent the Warriors slipping to their sixth defeat of the season.
A spilled pass straight from the kick-off by Hopper led to an attacking scrum inside the first minute for Worcester.
The mistake brought an early spell of pressure for the away side, which was utilised when Chris Pennell offloaded to the clinical Lemi in the corner inside three minutes.
Andy Goode, who finished with nine points, missed the conversion but followed up just a few minutes later with a penalty for an 8-0 lead.
Harlequins had their first period of pressure but Maurie Fa'asavalu dropped a pass five metres out following a line out, relieving the pressure for the away side.
On 18 minutes Karl Dickson side-stepped through Worcester's backline but could only be held by a resilient defence.
The resulting penalty was kicked over by Evans but the away side went straight back up the other end and won a penalty which Goode duly converted.
Lemi was sin-binned for obstructing the ball and a collapsed maul gave Quins a penalty under the posts - Evans pulling the scores back to 11-6 after 26 minutes.
But another error from the wasteful Quins gave Worcester a 31st-minute penalty - Goode converting from a tight angle.
Their industrious forwards finally got their reward four minutes before the break though when Hopper steamed through on to an Evans pass straight under the posts which the latter converted.
And the hosts went in for their half-time team talk 16-14 in front when Evans kicked another penalty - Semisi Taulava sin-binned just minutes after Lemi had rejoined play.
A lull in play in the opening 20 minutes of the second half was only broken by Evans' penalty on 59 minutes.
But Worcester stormed back through Claassens who finished off in the corner after Alex Grove broke the Quins line in the 68th minute to bring the scores level at 19-19. Goode, crucially, missed the conversion.
Neither side could gain possession with nervy kicks in the middle of the park but a line-out gave Evans space to execute what proved to be the winning drop goal - but the Warriors left the Twickenham Stoop with a losing bonus point.
Pens: Evans 4
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Lemi, Claassens
Pens: Goode 3
Yellow cards: David Lemi, Worcester Warriors, 23), Semisi Taulava (Worcester Warriors, 40)
Harlequins: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Matt Hopper, 12 Jordan Turner-Hall, 11 Sam Smith, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Karl Dickson, 8 Nick Easter (captain), 7 Luke Wallace, 6 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 5 George Robson, 4 Olly Kohn, 3 James Johnston, 2 Joe Gray, 1 Mark Lambert.
Replacements: 16 Rob Buchanan, 17 Darryl Marfo, 18 Will Collier, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Tom Guest, 21 Jordan Burns, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Casson.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Nikki Walker, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 David Lemi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Semisi Taulava, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Neil Best, 5 Chris Jones, 4 James Percival (captain), 3 John Andress, 2 Ed Shervington, 1 Ceri Jones.
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Rob O'Donnell, 18 Euan Murray, 19 Dean Schofield, 20 Sam Betty, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Andy Short, 23 Errie Claassens
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant referees: Roy Maybank, Ashley Rowden
Sale Sharks 16-27 Northampton Saints
There was no dream start for new director of rugby John Mitchell as his Sale Sharks side were comfortably beaten 27-16 by a dominant Northampton Saints in foggy conditions at Salford City Stadium.
Mitchell took the reins at the Sharks during the week, but his tenure began in the worst possible fashion as the Premiership's basement side fell to defeat against Jim Mallinder's men.
First-half scores from Jamie Elliott, Soane Tonga'uiha and Tom May put the visitors in the driving seat with flyhalf Ryan Lamb adding 12 points with the boot.
And despite an improved second half showing from the Sharks, with Rob Miller and Tommy Taylor going over, their poor first 40 minute display cost them as the Saints eased home.
Sale came into the game on the back of a defeat at Gloucester last weekend, while Northampton had edged past London Welsh at Franklin's Gardens.
There were doubts whether the match would go ahead with the ground shrouded in fog before the start of play, and the poor conditions led to an untidy game.
In the fifth minute the visitors were afforded the first sight at goal, Lamb's penalty sailing between the posts to give the Saints an early lead, but Nick Macleod levelled the scores after 15 minutes.
Two minutes later Northampton re-established their lead though - the visitors drove for the line and Elliott surged down the Sale blind-side to touch down, Lamb converting.
With 22 minutes gone the Saints extended their lead, prop Tonga'uiha going over after the visitors turned the ball over with Sale struggling at the breakdown, and Lamb again converted.
After 31 minutes Lamb kicked a drop-goal to perfection as the Saints stretched their lead to 17 points.
With the first half all but over, a loose Macleod pass was pounced on by Tom May who showed great pace to burst clear and crash over, Lamb adding the extras to make it 27-3 at the break.
But four minutes after the restart the Sharks hit back, a perfectly-timed move ending with Mark Cueto offloading to Miller who went over, but Macleod's conversion was wayward.
In the 49th minute Macleod made amends, slotting home a penalty to reduce the arrears in an improved second-half showing from the hosts.
And with the game drawing to a close, Taylor notched his first Premiership try to give Sale hope of salvaging a losing bonus point.
But Mitchell's side had left themselves with too much to do and the Saints closed the game out effectively to secure their seventh win from ten Premiership clashes.
Sale meanwhile have only won one of their first ten, and Mitchell will have to turn things around quickly in Manchester with his side already five points adrift at the bottom having played one more than their nearest rivals.
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: Miller, Taylor
Pens: Macleod 2
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: Elliott, Tonga'uiha, May
Cons: Lamb 3
Sale Sharks: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Charlie Amesbury, 13 Will Addison, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 David Seymour (captain), 6 Richie Vernon, 5 Kearnan Myall, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Tom Holmes, 20 James Gaskell, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Cameron Shepherd.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 George Pisi, 12 Dom Waldouck, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Ryan Lamb. 9 Martin Roberts, 8 GJ van Velze, 7 Phil Dowson, 6 Calum Clark, 5 Mark Sorenson, 4 Samu Manoa, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 1 Soane Tonga'uiha.
Replacements: 16 Mike Haywood, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Paul Doran Jones, 19 Rhys Oakley, 20 Ben Nutley, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Tom May.
Referee: Llyr Apgeraint-Roberts
Assistant referees: Paul Burton, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: David Grashoff