Sale Sharks director of rugby John Mitchell believes his side showed more maturity in a spirited defeat against French powerhouse Toulon in the Heineken Cup.
The Sharks’ defence held firm at a rain-swept Salford City Stadium, shocking many who felt they would be swept aside by their illustrious opponents, instead keeping them to 17-6.
And in his first Heineken Cup clash since joining the Sharks, the former All Blacks coach was pleased with his team’s hard-working performance.
“After last week one thing we asked of the guys in order to move forward – we need to basically stay in the contest for a lot longer and we managed to do that,” said the one-time Sale captain.
“I thought we fought very well and also showed more maturity than we did last week.
“We didn’t get frustrated when we lost possession and we generated some exceptional work without the ball.”
Danny Cipriani and Jonny Wilkinson traded penalties in difficult conditions, but it took David Smith’s opportunistic try to put Toulon 11-6 ahead at half-time.
And though the visitors pulled away in the second half with two Wilkinson penalties, heroic defending from the Sharks left Mitchell with reasons to be cheerful.
“I think an example of how much we’ve grown in a week was the way we defended our goal-line with about 12 minutes to go,” said the former Golden Lions boss.
“It gives you a sign of where we’ve got to head towards in order to advance in the Premiership.
“The Premiership is not about being the most exciting football team, it’s about being a collective team that’s prepared to work together and hang in there.
“I think tonight we showed it’s a good starting point. What we’ve got to do now is build on that each week.”
Today’s Heineken Cup clash was Sale’s first of back-to-back clashes with Toulon, the second being played at the Stade Felx Mayol on December 16.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks.