If Sale Sharks are to beat the Aviva Premiership drop, it will be by the skin of their teeth, claimed director of rugby Steve Diamond after a tight win away to London Welsh.
The Sharks endured a fine performance from the Exiles’ star-man Gavin Henson to take a vital 26-25 win, inspired by a 16-point display from fly-half Danny Cipriani.
But Diamond is aware that the Sharks will have to buck history if they are to stay up, despite recording their second successive league win.
“We have got a job on our hands and we are by no means out of the mire,” he said.
“We have just got to keep training and getting points because I don’t think any side that has been bottom of the league at Christmas has stayed up.
“Now we have beaten Exeter by a couple of points and London Welsh by a point. If we can continue to do that in three or four games, we will survive by the skin of our teeth.”
While the four points against London Welsh were vital in Sale Sharks’ fight to avoid relegation, Diamond insists the hard work is only just starting.
But he was pleased with his team’s second-only away-day success, his eye was already focused on the harder challenges to come against the two best sides in the country.
He said: “We have remained injury-free and we have to look for survival so it was good to get those four points.
“But we are still bottom of the league and we have Harlequins and Leicester to come in the next fortnight.”
Despite the win, Sharks remain rooted to the bottom of the Aviva Premiership – one point behind London Irish and three behind Welsh, who took a losing bonus point.
Sale took the first points of the afternoon with an eighth-minute penalty from the excellent Cipriani before the Welsh partnership of Henson and scrum-half Alex Davies put the hosts back in front.
Davies kicked three penalties in succession to put the hosts in front before the former Wales star smashed a monstrous 50-yard effort between the posts.
But the efforts of Cipriani soon silenced the Kassam Stadium crowd – the former Melbourne Rebel kicked a penalty of his own before setting up stand-in scrum-half Will Cliff for a try.
With the former England star converting the scores were 12-13 at the break, Sale soon raced further ahead with a Dan Braid try just one minute after the restart – Cipriani converted.
But Welsh came roaring back with winger Phil MacKenzie going over – Henson converted – before the former Ospreys man increased the lead with another penalty on 58 minutes.
Yet the Sharks overhauled their five-point deficit – Cipriani took a third penalty on the hour mark before Nick Macleod put them in front with a 71st-minute effort.
And Diamond’s men withstood a desperate assault from the Exiles to claim their third consecutive victory, leaving him confident that Sale can survive.
Top-of-the-table Harlequins arrive at Salford City Stadium next Friday and will provide the sternest test of Sale’s new-found confidence and form.
Image courtesy of Sale Sharks, via YouTube, with thanks.