After watching a sensational upset of the Exeter Chiefs, Sale Sharks coach Steve Diamond believes his side’s performance showed they had turned a corner.
The Sharks overturned a half-time deficit of eight points to take the points at the Salford City Stadium, their 21-16 victory keeping hopes of avoiding relegation alive.
And Diamond was full of praise for his squad, praising their ability to step up after the break and casting his eye on further challenges ahead.
He said: “Exeter don’t make many mistakes, but some wise words were said at half time about stopping their big runners in the backs, stopping them offloading, and our defence stepped up after the break.
“We haven’t played well in the first half of the season, but that can happen, and since Christmas we’ve turned it around a little bit.
“We’re fully fit now, which helps, and we’ll go to London Welsh with belief.”
Yet the first points of the evening went the visitor;s way as Chiefs fly-half Gareth Steenson notching a penalty on 13 minutes.
Though Sharks soon fought back courtesy of a Dan Braid try after a rolling maul – Cipriani missed the conversion – Steenson immediately put Exeter back in control with another penalty.
And things went from bad to worse for Diamond’s men just before half time when the TMO ruled that Chiefs’ Fijian winger Watisoni Votu had grounded the ball over the host’s tryline.
With Steenson kicking the points, play-off chasing Exeter led 5-13 at half-time, adding further points four minutes after the break with another Steenson penalty.
However, the Sharks were able to find another gear with a record-breaking try for Sale stalwart Mark Cueto propelling a fight-back in the final half-hour.
The former England winger went over on 54 minutes to take his 76th Aviva Premiership try, overtaking previous record-holder Steve Hanley – Miller converted.
And Sale continued to press – Rob Miller kicked a penalty on 58 minutes before Cipriani put his side into the lead with his own three-pointer soon after.
Taking advantage of a Kia Horstmann sin-binning, Nick Macleod – on for Rob Miller at full-back – then put daylight between the sides with a drop-goal.
Yet the Sharks almost lost it at the death – with Kearnen Myall sin-binned, it looked as Exeter winger Jack Nowell had broken the hosts hearts with a last-minute try.
However, it was ruled that flanker James Scaybrook had committed a knock-on when he palmed the ball to the 19-year-old in the build-up, gifting Sale a valuable victory.
Having now cut the gap from eleventh-placed London Irish to just one point, the Sharks now travel to Oxford’s Kassam Stadium knowing Premiership survival is very much in their hands.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks.