SALE Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson said a slow start and the inability to take make the most of a man advantage proved costly as they slipped to a 17-14 defeat at Northampton Saints.

The Saints had Ollie Sleightholme sin-binned in the 10th minute following a series of early infringements.

But despite being a man down, Teimana Harrison opened the scoring for the home side and three penalties from the boot of James Grayson opened up a 14-0 lead.

Jean-Luc de Preez struck for Sale ahead of what turned out to be a decisive penalty from Grayson, which came before Lood de Jager’s score proceeded a tense finale.

Sanderson was not happy with how his side started the match.

“We lost that game in the first 20 (minutes), that’s when that game was won and lost for us,” said Sanderson whose side host London Irish on Sunday.

“We had the lion’s share of the territory and possession and we didn’t capitalise on that, through a lack of composure and a lack of accuracy.

“A lot of the big stuff we got right, such as the field position and the physicality, but you’ve got to be more accurate against any team, let alone a team like Northampton.

“I said to the lads that if you get the big things right, if you get the effort right, if you get the physicality then you’re always pushing, you’re always competing.

“But it’s the little things that put the game away and it’s the little things today that let us down.”