Sale lost 24-10 at home to Harlequins yesterday but still took the final English place in the Heineken Cup next season, thanks to Bath's 28-3 defeat by Leicester at Welford Road. Afterwards, the somewhat spiky Sale chief executive, Steve Diamond, seemed to enjoy his meeting with the press.
"I think we were accused earlier on in the week of fielding a weakened side by Premier Rugby," said Diamond, referring to his selection of an all-English match-day 23 that some observers thought aimed at the central funding that rewards production of such talent, more than a win on the day. "I think Premier Rugby should take the bigger issues of avoidance of salary caps by some clubs."
Sale's last match at Edgley Park produced one home try, by Will Addison. Danny Care and Mike Brown scored for Quins, who thus finished the regular season at the top of the table.
Leicester have a home semi-final against Saracens, the team they beat in the 2010 final and who beat them in 2011. Richard Cockerill, the Tigers' director of rugby, said: "It will be tough, and close. They generally are, apart from when we played at the start of the season, which was 50 points." Those 50 were scored by Sarries, so revenge is on the menu.
Yesterday, Billy Twelvetrees kicked 10 points and inspired a second half that Leicester won 25-3 with scores from Anthony Allen, Horacio Agulla and the referee, who awarded a penalty try.
Next season Twelvetrees is off to Gloucester, for whom this one ended on a bum note, a 52-18 defeat at London Irish in which their lock Jim Hamilton and the Exiles hooker David Paice were sent off. The two men had two fights, the second triggering a brawl, and prompted the Exiles' director of rugby, Brian Smith, to say: "Jim Hamilton has got a lot to answer for, it's not the 1970s." Less sensitive supporters might wish it was, but Smith said the red cards had been"a blight on the game".
At Vicarage Road, Saracens beat Exeter 40-22. Northampton's win meant Exeter would not have made the play-offs had they won.