Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond praised his side’s resurrected defence after they swept aside a lacklustre Gloucester at the Salford City Stadium to all but secure league survival.
The Sharks managed to put last week’s defensive horror-show at the Madejski Stadium behind them to comprehensively rout the high-flying Cherry and Whites 32-9.
And the manner of the victory had Diamond purring at his side’s upturn in form since Christmas which has left them in a commanding position for the Aviva Premiership relegation run-in.
“We’ve picked up a bit of form since Christmas,” he said. “I thought we played reasonably well in attack against London Irish a couple of weeks ago.
“We talked about how bad the defence was that day – today I think defence won us the game in the first half.
“Common sense tells us that Welsh have to win three games now which is going to be tough for them – our mentality was to finish above them after the penalty.”
The Sharks now lie 13 points clear of bottom side London Welsh and realistically can only be relegated if the Exiles win all of their remaining fixtures.
They had the a perfect start last night with Jonny Leota going over after only 58 seconds, charging down a clearing kick from Dan Robson – Nick Macleod missed the conversion.
Though Gloucester tyro Freddie Burns reduced the arrears on four minutes with a penalty the day got worse for the visitors two minutes later through a Dwayne Peel try.
Like Leota, the welsh scrum-half charged down a clearance kick to take Sale to the 10 point mark, extended by Macleod.
Burns continued to keep his side in touch with another penalty on 14 minutes, but the hosts responded with a well-struck 31st minute response from Macleod.
And Gloucester hopes of getting back into the match were dealt a further blow a minute from the break when Cameron Shepherd weaved through the defensive line to touch down.
With Nick Macleod’s successful conversion taking the scores to 32-6 at the break, the visitors reduced the deficit – once more through Burns – on 54 minutes.
Yet the Sharks never looked like being aught throughout the second half and twisted the knife with five minutes left – Peel taking his second try and securing a bonus point.
Conversion duties were passed to Danny Cipriani – subbed on for Macleod in his first appearance since the LV= Cup final – the former England international couldn’t add the points.
However, he redeemed himself at the death, supplying a majestic chip-kick for Mark Cueto to race onto for a fifth try, adding to his tally as the Premiership’s most prolific try-scorer.
And the try from the club’s long-time servant proved to be the icing on the cake for Diamond, who praised Cueto publicly after the match.
“Mark [Cueto] has broken his own record again tonight,” he said.
“The analogy we use is that he’s like an old tube of toothpaste, squeezing it and squeezing it to get the best out of it.”
The result taking the Sharks up to tenth place in the Premiership ahead of London Irish and London Welsh’s weekend fixtures.
Sale will travel to Northampton Saints next weekend – however they may not need a result at Franklin Gardens to survive if Welsh lose on Sunday.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks