Sale Sharks 29-21 Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership, September 23
Diamond buoyed by Sale spirit
ESPNscrum Staff
September 23, 2011
Northampton flanker Calum Clark is left devastated by his side's defeat, Sale Sharks v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership, Edgeley Park, Stockport, England, September 23, 2011
Northampton's Calum Clark was left shell-shocked by his side's defeat in Stockport © Getty Images

Sale executive director of sport Steve Diamond paid tribute to his players' unity and desire after they battled back from nine points down with just over half an hour to play to defeat Northampton Saints 29-21 at Edgeley Park on Friday night.

The Sharks, Premiership Champions in 2006, have been battling relegation in recent seasons and they looked set for another campaign scrapping at the wrong end of the table when they were beaten by newly-promoted Worcester on the opening day of the season.

However, after a summer of great upheaval at Edgeley Park, Sale's revamped squad now appears to be gelling, with the victory over the Saints representing the Sharks' third on the bounce since their loss at Sixways.

Certainly, Sale's spirit was very much in evidence on Friday night. The Saints led 18-9 after 54 minutes in Stockport, with fly-half Stephen Myler having outscored opposite number Nick Macleod by six penalties to three. Howeveer, the hosts dragged themselves back into the contes with a try from Mark Easter. As Sale turned the screw, Northampton lost their discipline and, as a consequence, Calum Clark and Phil Dowson to the sin bin in the space of three minutes. Sale took advantage, sending Dwayne Peel over whilst their opponents were down to 13 before killing Northampton off with a third try on 73 minutes, through David Seymour.

"We've got a lot of new players here," Diamond said. "The lads who were fortunate to be offered a new contract and the other lads who came in a have a desire to achieve and succeed.

"That's down to the players and the team spirit is generated on the training field, not in a bar or a bowling alley.

"What we've done is take all the excuses out and given the players the best possible facilities and knowledge. At half-time the lads had not performed to the level that we know we can perform.

"It wasn't a rollicking session at half-time. We just said that if we get the ball out wide then we could score tries and we did that, courtesy of them having 13 men.

"You watch how Northampton play and attacking them out wide behind their big centres is the best way to get at them."

Meanwhile, Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder was less than impressed with the performance of referee Tim Wigglesworth. Mallinder had no issue with Dowson being binned for kicking the ball away but he was irked by the yellow shown to Clark for obstruction and particularly incensed by the referee's allegedly inconsistent officiating at the breakdown.

"You don't want to blame referees and we talked about being squeaky clean, but quite obviously in the first 10 minutes the referee was very keen in terms of the breakdown, of rolling away in the tackle and being onside," he said. "We talked about it but we were still getting penalised.

"The second yellow card was tough. It's tough enough being one man down, even tougher when you are two men down."

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