Sale director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, was full of pride after his Sharks side ran in-form Northampton Saints close in Saturday’s 21-17 defeat on the road.

They led 14-0 with half an hour to play after tries from Joe Carpenter and Luke Cowan-Dickie appeared to be sending Sharks to top spot.

But scores from George Furbank, Alex Mitchell and a penalty try 10 minutes from time extended the hosts’ winning run to six matches.

Sharks returned north with a losing bonus point, but it could have been a lot more for Sanderson’s side.

They defended superbly for all of the first half, limiting in-form Saints to few chances of note as a bumper home crowd grew in frustration.

And although momentum swung emphatically against them in the final quarter, Sanderson had few complaints.

“There is pride,” said the Sale boss, whose side welcome struggling Bristol Bears to Salford Stadium next Friday night.

“I thought our mentality and effort was outstanding tonight and you are not going to lose many games with that kind of mentality.

“It feels a lot different from a couple of other losses we have had this year when we just haven’t been at the races.

“We were in the fight, up for it, and probably had the game by the short and curlies if not for some lost collisions and some discipline.

“There were 10 minutes after half-time when we seemed to be constantly on the back foot and they were making yards with every carry.

“We want to be on the front foot making collisions, otherwise you find yourself in the tumble dryer like we were for 20 minutes.”

Saints’ Phil Dowson believes patience paid off for his team against a stubborn Sale.

“We did some decent stuff in the second half. We drove the pace and got a bit more of our game on the pitch,” the Northampton director of rugby said.

“Sale are a good side, they shut us down in the first half and we didn’t convert any of our pressure.

“They had one opportunity and scored, which put them in the ascendancy at half time. But we said at half time that it was absolutely okay and that we had done a lot of good things.

“We weren’t upset in any way as a coaching group, we just knew we had a bit more and against good groups, you sometimes have to wear them down and figure out where the space is.

“In the second half, Fin Smith, Alex Mitchell and George Furbank did that. Fair play to the squad for really turning it on in the last 20 minutes.

“We tried to play a bit quicker in the second half and be more optimistic in terms of how we wanted to play.”