Alex Sanderson targets home Premiership play-off tie for Sale


Andrew Baldock
Friday 14 April 2023 23:19 BST

Alex Sanderson has set his sights on a home tie after Sale Sharks secured their place in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs.

Sale’s 36-20 victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate confirmed a top-four finish, and they need one more win from remaining games against Gloucester and Newcastle to guarantee a play-off encounter on home soil.

“It is tough against the best teams away from home,” Sale rugby director Sanderson said.

“You want to maintain form – you have to, going into finals. Us maintaining form means we win again and get a home semi-final. That is the basics of it.

“We needed that tonight. We’ve been nearly there, nearly there, and we’ve had enough of saying that. It was a good time to find a bit of form.

“It is confirmation of our belief. That was a more complete performance, and the big players finding form at this time in the season is crucial.”

England centre Manu Tuilagi was a key performer in Sale’s win, and a new contract with the Sharks could be finalised within days.

Sanderson added: “It is not signed, not sealed, but it has been delivered. There were other moving parts with regards to the salary cap which slotted into place today.

“I’ve been there before when the rug gets pulled from under your feet, and a French or Japanese team come in with £1million.

“I am never going to stand in his way if that’s what is right for him and his family. It’s right for him to stay with us for all the reasons.”

George Ford was the architect of Sale’s impressive win, kicking four penalties, a drop-goal and three conversions for a 21-point haul.

Skipper Ben Curry, lock Jean-Luc du Preez and scrum-half Gus Warr scored tries for Sale, while Bristol replied with touchdowns from wings Siva Naulago and Gabriel Ibitoye, a penalty and two conversions by former Sharks fly-half AJ MacGinty, plus a James Williams penalty.

Paying tribute to the England international Curry brothers Ben and Tom, Sanderson said: “They are probably playing some of their best rugby.

“They are loving it, coming to their maturation. What are they? 24 now.

“Tom has had his recognition, and Ben is richly deserving getting his. It’s fitting they got men of the match tonight.

“I can’t wax more lyrically about them. They are good lads, great to work with, super-enthusiastic.

“Both could have a captain’s armband, but Ben is carrying that torch and Tom is supporting him, which is great.”

Bristol, who saw prop Ellis Genge yellow-carded following a high tackle on Sale flanker and his England team-mate Tom Curry, are now effectively out of the play-off race.

“Whenever we play Sale it comes down to the physical battle, and 100 per cent they won that tonight,” Bristol rugby director Lam said.

“We made it difficult for ourselves. We gave 12 points away before they even got in our 22. All in all, it was disappointing.

“When you have got a kicker like George Ford, and in those (wet) conditions, three points are like five points.

“For us now, it is about making sure we secure Champions Cup (qualification) for next season.”

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