A week ago Sale Sharks’ unbeaten home run this season was over. This weekend they have a golden opportunity to cast another spell over visiting teams.
It took the arrival of a giant – and uber-confident – Montpellier team, flying in France, to knock Sale off their perch in the European Challenge Cup last eight, with the Manchester lads sitting pretty as the only team in Europe undefeated on their turf.
But ahead of welcoming a struggling Bath to the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday, hooker Neil Briggs says the time is ripe to finish the season in style and set up a confident start to next term.
“Staying together is the key. We need to keep doing what we’ve been working so hard on all year: being that team that nobody wants to play against,” he told MM.
“It would be a shame to let that slip and die off towards the end of the year.
“A lot of the guys are sticking around here so these four games could keep us going into the pre-season next year so we can come back even stronger.
“It’s good at this club, it’s easy to do because there are no egos. Everyone’s on the same page and the management do a good job at keeping it that way.”
Sale’s Carrington base was by no means an unhappy place to be for training on Wednesday as Wagner’s stirring Ride of the Valkyries blared out of the kitchen.
“You lose a game and you’re not a bad side overnight, sometimes you will lose, that’s part and parcel of it. It’s then how do you get back on the horse and crack on?” said Briggs.
“We’ve had that throughout the year now. We got smashed by Wasps and then beat Leicester at home.
“It’s how you react to when it gets tough. They’re pretty good at that here.”
For Briggs himself, consecutive yellow cards shortly after coming on in Sale’s last two outings have left the experienced 30-year-old hurting.
But crucially, and clearly in the Sale spirit, not defeated.
“Twice now I’ve had to apologise, nobody likes doing it once never mind twice.
“Fortunately enough the management have looked on it as a team thing, an accumulation of things and I ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“But I need to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The frustration is the shoulda, woulda, couldas come in.
“When you play on Friday night and you’ve got two days off before you come back in on Monday, the demons are at you and you’re looking at the video every time hoping the video changes from a yellow card and it doesn’t.
“Should I have done it? Would it have made a difference if I’d have stayed on? Could we have won the game?
“You can’t do that, it’s gone. So the only thing I can do is make sure I get back and do everything I possibly can to help the team.”
Briggs is predicting Sale will need to be at their best to down Bath, who despite a star-studded squad sit down in ninth, nine points beneath the top six-hunting Sharks.
“They’ve still got all the players they had last year when they made the final, so it’s going to be tough.
“It’s only a matter of time before that clicks again for them. Obviously they’ve had a bit of tough time recently but that’s for them to worry about.
“For us we just need to do what we do and it’s a big two weeks. We need to get as much out of this weekend and the trip down there as we can,” added Briggs, with Sale four points behind sixth-placed Harlequins but with a game in hand.
“I don’t want to say it’s defining and all that sort of stuff but it’s a big game, we need to do a job this week and then do the same again next week. That’s how it is for the next four games then see where we’re at.”
Image courtesy of UK Fast via YouTube, with thanks.