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Diamond savours Champions Cup spot

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond declared himself 'delighted' after his side secured a place in next season's European Rugby Champions Cup with victory over Exeter.

Sale inflicted a 55-12 defeat on the Chiefs - their heaviest ever in four seasons in the Premiership - to secure sixth place in the table.

"That was obviously one of our aims from today because there was a bit of pressure on us having played well all season," said Diamond.

"But we didn't play well a couple of weeks ago against Harlequins. This is a difficult place to come so we are delighted. We played well and we reminded the players in the week that we hadn't won here before.

"We hit form today and if we do that with the players that we've got then we can score tries like we did. The top four in the Premiership is probably away from us but we've got to manage expectations from where we have come from and what we have spent.

"To be competing in the top four you have to be spending big money. We don't do that so anywhere around the top six is great for us. We didn't expect to win by that scoreline by any stretch of the imagination."

The Sharks ran in eight tries in their demolition of the Chiefs, with two from Sam Tuitupou plus one each for Tom Arscott, Michael Paterson, Dwayne Peel, Dave Seymour, Tom Brady and Andrei Ostrikov.

Fly-half Danny Cipriani, who was being watch by England's backs coach Andy Farrell, landed four conversions with his replacement Joe Ford adding two plus a well-struck drop goal.

Cipriani was replaced 15 minutes before the end, when the Sharks were leading 33-7, as Diamond used his matchday squad but the Sale boss thought Farrell was probably also watching a couple of the Exeter team plus Paterson.

Diamond added: "Paterson was outstanding having come from nowhere, having played in Wales for a long time. We got hold of him and he signed a long-term contract. He is an outstanding forward."

The Chiefs, who never really looked in the game, scored a try late in each half through Fetu'u Vainikolo and replacement prop Carl Rimmer, with acting skipper Gareth Steenson converting the first.

Exeter went into the game hoping to hold on to seventh place in the Premiership, and a play-off against the seventh-placed club in France for the final place in the European Rugby Champions Cup.

"I said to the guys in the dressing room afterwards that I want us to be in the top tier of the European competition," said Exeter head coach Rob Baxter. "But to do that we have to be in seventh place to give us an opportunity.

"But I can't make that their motivation - they have to show that themselves.

"I was a little disappointed with this performance, which didn't really look like a highly motivated side that was going to fight tooth and nail to cement that seventh place.

"We were in before today but we weren't by the end of the day and that is purely down to us, it was all in our hands. I said some truthful, rather than harsh, words [to the players] and said that sometimes you have to look at a game that has been a humbling experience.

"In our time in the Premiership I thought that we had talked through ways of managing those situations enough times now for something like today not to happen and for us to get a grip on the game after conceding an early score.

"But today, the truth is collectively they were better than we were and we paid the price massively.

"There were some good performances from some of our players but collectively we were off enough, and in enough different areas, for it not to be a very tough contest."

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