Drifting away: Sale eye seventh as possible route to Europe after Harlequins loss

Sale Sharks were dealt a blow to their European Rugby Champions Cup qualification as they suffered a 25-23 defeat to Harlequins – their first Aviva Premiership home loss in 2015.

Joe Ford’s missed conversions proved costly as the home side fought back from a 22-6 half-time deficit but ultimately got nothing from the game.

Director of rugby Steve Diamond was frustrated after the game with the result leaving the Sharks eight points adrift of the top six with just two games to play.

He said: “The top six is drifting away from us but we have got to keep the seventh spot and then if things go our way with the results in the European Rugby Challenge Cup then we may get an opportunity.

“In a fortnight, we have Newcastle Falcons here to round off our home games but it is a disappointing day for us all round.”

The away side took the lead with four first-half tries through Charlie Walker, Chris Robshaw, Marland Yarde and Danny Care – Danny Cipriani responding with two penalties.

“Our first half performance was awful. Everything we talked about in the week that Harlequins would try and do, they did.

“The pressure’s come onto us and we’ve not responded to it, which is disappointing.

“We gifted them three of their four tries and they were away with it at half-time. The only thing we got right was that we changed the bench after 45 minutes and they made a big impact.”

The home side responded after the break scoring twice through replacement Tom Arscott and then all-time premiership record try scorer Mark Cueto, but the wayward boot of Ford meant a bonus losing point was all they had to show for their efforts.

Diamond refused to blame his young fly-half for their side’s fourth defeat in five matches.

“The lads regrouped at half time and came out fighting. And whilst Joe Ford missed two kicks, his ball in hand work when he came on was excellent and he created two tries.

“Give or take a kick or two we could have stolen it but it was a fair result in the end.”

Diamond’s side are not in action this week but will have an eye on Friday’s Challenge Cup final where defeat for Gloucester would open up the seventh place in the league table for European qualification.

Main image courtesy of Sale Sharks via YouTube, with thanks.

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