Sharks' hopes sink after point deduction

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The Independent Online

Sale Sharks have been dealt a blow in their bid for a second Guinness Premiership title after they were deducted one point for fielding an unregistered player.

The Sharks had failed to re-register hooker David Ward following his loan spell at Manchester before including him on the bench for the Premiership game against Harlequins on March 22.

The Sharks sit in fifth place in the table, outside the playoff places, and are now five points behind London Irish, which means they need a bonus point victory at home to Northampton next weekend to stand any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.

The club was also fined £5,000 by a joint Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby disciplinary panel.

Ward’s introduction in place of a prop with eight minutes remaining and Sale trailing 31-15 to Harlequins resulted in the match finishing with uncontested scrums.

Sale lost the game 38-20.

Sale chief executive James Jennings argued to the panel that an immediate points deduction would not be appropriate because “no rugby advantage was sought or gained”.

He added that any points deduction should be suspended because of the impact it could have on Sale’s play-off chances.

In a statement released today, Jennings said: “The club are very disappointed that an administration failure has resulted in this sanction.

“The club, having just received the full details of the decision off the RFU panel will now study this in detail in order to consider what further actions, if any, it may take in regards to this matter.

“The club and squad remain totally focused on our final game of the regular season with the objective of securing five points in order to keep our play off chances alive.