Top-four spot beyond us – Diamond


Published: Monday 30th March 2015 by The News Editor

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Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond believes a top-four finish in the Aviva Premiership is out of the Sharks’ reach and is focusing on securing European Champions Cup qualification.

Tries from Johnny Leota and Josh Beaumont, as well as 13 points from Danny Cipriani, saw the Manchester outfit defeat Gloucester 23-6 at the AJ Bell Stadium and move them to within one point of Wasps in sixth.

A top-six finish would give Sale a direct place in next season’s premier European competition.

With three winnable matches against London Irish, Harlequins and Newcastle Falcons coming up, a top-four berth and play-off spot appear to be a possibility, but Diamond does not think that it is a realistic target.

“The first goal is to qualify for the Champions Cup and we want to finish in sixth to do that,” he said. “We’ll just try to win every game. If we do then we will finish in the top six, but I do think the top four is a bit away from us and we’re probably just off that.

“We’ve not got a squad that can compete with the top four, but at home we’re a good side and it’s difficult (to come here) as we’ve proven against Gloucester, Northampton and Saracens.

“The run-in for us is good for the fact that we get a rest after every week and, with the ageing squad that we’ve got, it gives them time to recover.”

Diamond also paid tribute to Mark Cueto, a one-club man who made his 300th appearance for the team versus the Cherry and Whites.

He added: “In the team talk, there were no tactics discussed. It was all about Beaumont, Ross Harrison, Tommy Taylor, Cliffy (Will Cliff) – all these kids that have taken the same route.

“They started at 17 or 18 and Cuets did the same thing 15 years ago and he put his 300th shirt on today. It doesn’t happen to many people.

“He puts the same endeavour, the same enthusiasm into his 300th game as he did his first one. If those young lads who played today follow him, then maybe they will play for England.”

As for Gloucester, they succumbed once again in Manchester against the Sharks – a team they have not beaten away from home since 2001.

And, having only scored six points in the match through two James Hook penalties, director of rugby David Humphreys admitted their display was not acceptable.

“I was most disappointed with the performance,” Humphreys said. “Over the last few weeks we would say as a team and as a squad we’ve performed pretty well for most of the time.

“We haven’t always got the result we felt we deserved, but there have been certain parts of our game around the energy we bring to our defence and attack, the enthusiasm that has been there and you can never question the heart.

“I don’t think today was about questioning any of that – it’s just that it wasn’t there in the first half. Setting aside the result, we felt that was the most disappointing aspect after a very positive training week.”

Published: Monday 30th March 2015 by The News Editor

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