Sport

Steve Diamond backs Danny Cipriani and young Sale Sharks side after Montpellier loss in Heineken Cup

By James Scott 

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond championed Danny Cipriani’s kicking display despite his side’s defeat to Montpellier in their final Heineken Cup home game.

Montpellier were quickest out of the blocks with first half tries through Yohann Artru and Scottish forward Johnnie Beattie, but Cipriani kept Sale in it, scoring two penalties. 

Sale were unable to unlock the French defence in the second half, and Montpellier ran out 6-27 winners with an Eric Escande-converted penalty try.

Diamond admitted his side were defeated by a more clinical Montpellier team, but applauded Sale’s character, led by Dave Seymour and Cipriani. 

“A lot of people put their hand up tonight and showed what character we have in the team,” said Diamond. “It could have been a lot worse. 

“One of the guys who has a lot of press these days is Danny Cipriani, if he sticks to the kicking game for us he’ll be great. 

“That’s why we’re in the game at half time because of Danny’s kicking.

“James Doyle and Dave Seymour certainly make up for what they lack in height with heart and they wear it on their sleeve, another great performance by them.” 

Montpellier broke the deadlock in the tenth minute, switching play rapidly to the right for winger Artru to dive over the whitewash, with Pailaugue adding the extras. 

The visitors increased their lead in the 33rd minute with an unconverted try when Beattie broke through the tackles of the Sale back line to dive over.

Montpellier went further ahead seven minutes after the break with full back Pierre Berard finishing a sharp break away by the French side, but Pailaugue missed the conversion. 

The French side put the game beyond doubt as Montpellier were awarded a penalty try in the dying minutes of the game, with Escande adding the extras. 

After four defeats at the hands of Montpellier and Toulon, Sale have disappointed in their Heineken Cup campaign, but Diamond stressed the focus is the Aviva Premiership. 

“Obviously with the two French sides that we’ve played against dominating we have to look at what is most important to us,” said Diamond. 

“The Aviva is our lifeblood, our bread and butter and we’ve got to concentrate on that so we got a lot out of today.

“I thought after the first scrum of the game we were in for a really hard night, we showed a lot of character and there were a lot of positives for us moving into the league. 

“The scrum was under huge pressure most of the way through the game and overall their dominance showed, they deserved the result in the end and the score-line.

With Sale out of the Heineken Cup before the game, Diamond pushed several fringe players into the line up, including Josh Beaumont, making his debut at no.8.

Diamond refused to criticise his side’s performance and insisted his young charges played well at Salford City Stadium. 

“The young centre Jennings did really well today, and Josh Beaumont did really well in his first game at this level so there were a lot of positives,” said Diamond. 

“We played good in parts, we didn’t want to get into an open running game with them because we know how destructive they can be.

The result leaves the Sharks with four defeats from their five Heineken Cup games ahead of their farewell to European competition against the Blues in Cardiff. 

Sale will then have two LV=Cup fixtures against Scarlets and London Wasps to negotiate before they can resume league duties in mid-February. 

Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks.

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