Aviva Premiership round-up: Sharks shaken by Mitchell's quick exit


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The Independent Online

Sale Sharks' poor and chaotic season has taken a turn for the worse with the departure of John Mitchell as head coach after only a month.

The former New Zealand coach is technical advisor for the Lions, the Johannesburg-based club in the Super 15, after stepping aside as head coach last month after a legal wrangle. Mitchell was in charge of Sale for only five matches in a stint that began at the end of November, including Friday night's 33-27 victory over Worcester at a windy Salford City Stadium.

Brian Kennedy, Sale's owner, said that Mitchell "has had to return to South Africa for personal reasons which we respect. We are grateful for his valuable and insightful contributions, albeit for a shorter term than envisaged".

Short-term is apt description for what has happened to the coaching team at the Premiership's bottom club since the end of October, when confusion over roles was clarified with a statement that Bryan Redpath would be the head coach, working with Steve Diamond and Mitchell.

At the end of November Mitchell was unexpectedly announced as head coach for the rest of the season. Now he's gone.

Sale's survival in the Premiership will depend on them catching London Irish, who are now only one point ahead, or London Welsh, who are eight points further away but lost again, to London Wasps, yesterday.

A wonderful try by the Wasps' outstanding scrum-half, Joe Simpson, was the highlight of their victory, and as the game got away from the Welsh in the second half Tom Varndell ran in a late fourth try to wrap up the Wasps' bonus point.

Tries from wing Elliot Daly, who also kicked a penalty, and replacement prop Will Taylor brought Wasps back from a 12-6 half-time deficit after Gordon Ross had kicked four of his five penalties for London Welsh. Fly-half Nicky Robinson landed three penalties for Wasps and Stephen Jones one conversion.

Indiscipline in the ruck cost Exeter the chance to beat Bath for the first time in the Premiership when Tom Heathcote converted a penalty try three minutes from time in a 12-12 draw in front of 10,744 at Sandy Park.

The Chiefs had protected an advantage built up by Gareth Steenson's accurate place-kicking until Bath, who had claimed an early try through Michael Classens, kicked for the corner late on and piled on the pressure. Successive Exeter transgressions in the ruck brought the penalty try.