Sport

Sale Sharks’ Steve Diamond focus on avoiding Aviva Premiership relegation despite LV Cup final spot

By Ed Owen

Sale Sharks may have booked their place in the LV Cup final with victory over Saracens, but director of rugby Steve Diamond admitted he is focusing on Aviva Premiership survival.

The Sharks put paid to their table-topping opponents treble ambitions, producing a sterling defensive display on their way to a 21-15 win.

But despite the result Diamond acknowledged that his side’s remarkable cup run was a sideshow to their battle against the drop, with Sale two points off the foot of the Aviva Premiership.

“We’ve got three league games at home, London Irish and Northampton away and we need to go in and finish in the Premiership on our own merits,” said Diamond.

“What’s happened with London Welsh being deducted five points is good fortune for us in one respect but we just need to compound it by winning the remainder of our games.

“But the LV= Cup is good to keep the momentum – Harlequins are obviously throwing it about and we’re looking to play, so it will bode well for a good game down at Worcester.”

Sale opened the scoring at the Salford City Stadium with a fourth-minute Danny Cipriani three-pointer – however, ill-discipline cost the hosts as Sarries scrum-half Ben Spencer notched three successive penalties.

Though the Sharks were pinned back in their own half for the opening 40 minutes, Saracens could only muster another three points – through Spencer – which were immediately pegged back by Cipriani.

The Premiership leaders were punished for their wastefulness on 37 minutes – Tom Holmes capitalised on Sharks hooker Tommy Taylor’s poor lineout throw for the first try of the afternoon.

The ball fell fortunately for the 23-year-old, who powered over the whitewash to score the first try of the afternoon – Cipriani failed to add the extras.

With only one point separating the sides at half-time and rattled by impressive attacking play, Sarries brought on Matt Stevens and Charlie Hodgson on 60 minutes to close out the game.

And the former England internationals immediately made their presence felt – within moments of coming on the visitors had a penalty in front of the posts, which Spencer ably converted.

However, Sale hit back – with 13 minutes remaining James Gaskell offloaded to Nathan Fowles for the replacement half-back to go over.

Cipriani added the points and scored a later penalty to seal an excellent 21-15 result for the home side – Sale will now face Harlequins at Sixways Stadium in next Sunday’s final.

Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks

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