Sale Sharks eyeing play-off berth after win over Wasps

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Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson wants his team to build on their 26-18 New Year’s Day victory over Wasps as they look to get back into the race for the play-offs.

Sale had won just three of their first nine Premiership matches but got the better of Wasps as they scored four tries to seal their win at the AJ Bell Stadium and move up to ninth position in the standings.

Happy with performance

Although fourth-placed Gloucester are still nine points ahead of them, Sanderson was happy with the way his team battled to maximum points.

He said: “It wasn’t the easiest of victories but we’ve done everything we needed to do to help us keep marching up the table.

“The whole team have given me everything again.

“I’ll have a nice night now but then it’s about cracking on again – we’ve started the year really well.

“I thought we looked a bit tired in the final quarter but the job was pretty much done in that first 60 minutes.

“I was really happy with the performance and we’ve come through it without any new injuries too.

“Hopefully that alone will give us a little bit of consistency in terms of team selection ahead of what promises to be a very busy period.”

AJ MacGinty pulled the strings for Sale in a man-of-the-match display, with Sanderson saluting the fly-half who will leave for Bristol at the end of the season.

He added: “He was back to his mercurial best. I’m chuffed for him that he found a bit of form.

“He’ll certainly be missed when he leaves us but we understand he has to try and do the best for himself and his family.”

Wasps had actually scored the first try through Josh Bassett but Sale ran in four tries, Jean-Luc du Preez, Marland Yarde, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Ben Curry all crossing before Jimmy Gopperth’s late consolation.

Wasps head coach Lee Blackett said: “Of course it’s a disappointing day for us.

“We knew Sale needed to be matched physically but we’ve lost that battle.

“Sale are always well-organised as everyone knows but for one reason or another we just couldn’t match them when we needed to.

“Physicality was always going to be the key word here but we’ve not given it enough and you just can’t give Sale good field positions.

“The only positive I think I can take is the way we fought back in the second half.

“It really could have gone horrible for us when they scored just after half-time.

“At least we showed a bit of grit and fight in that second half.

“Defensively it’s been a frustrating day, though, we gave away too many points to a good Sale side.

“There’s a few sore bodies in the dressing room but I’m not surprised really as this is a tough place to come to.”

Exeter start 2022 with win over Bristol Bears

Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs controlled the game against Bristol Bears but were made to wait until the latter stages to secure a deserved 19-13 victory at Sandy Park.

The Devonians were the better side for much of this Premiership contest and went into the break 12-3 ahead thanks to Tom O’Flaherty and Jonny Hill tries.

Callum Sheedy kicked a three-pointer for the Bears in the opening period and they defended manfully to keep themselves in the match.

When Henry Purdy’s interception try brought them to within a penalty of claiming an unlikely win, they sensed an opportunity, but the Chiefs finally sealed the triumph when Stuart Hogg went over.

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