Sale boss Steve Diamond sings praises of Dan Mugford after beating Harlequins
Steve Diamond singled out home debutant Dan Mugford for special praise after the fly-half kicked 14 points as Sale Sharks downed Harlequins 19-10 for their first Aviva Premiership win of the season.
Sharks director of rugby Diamond admitted that Mugford had cost them a win at Newcastle Falcons last Friday when he missed a last-gasp penalty, but could not fault his performance against Quins at the AJ Bell Stadium.
David Seymour's try, along with four Mugford penalties and a conversion were enough to hold Quins at bay, despite England flanker Chris Robshaw's try and five points from the ever-reliable Nick Evans.
Harlequins replacement Mat Luamanu saw red late on and both Quins director of rugby John Kingston and Diamond refused to be drawn on the validity of the decision.
Diamond instead focussed on the individual performance of Mugford, who last year was playing for Championship side Nottingham and only stepped into the breach as a late injury replacement for AJ MacGinty.
"I thought Dan Mugford had an outstanding game, moving up a level. Young Paolo Odogwu on the wing also showed some flashes of potential," 48-year-old Diamond said.
"We managed to get the win and deny them the bonus point. We learned last year how important that was if you want to get in the top four.
"Dan played really well last week if I'm honest. He missed a kick under great pressure to win us the game, but we've encouraged him all week.
"We've reminded him we knew he was a good player when we signed him out of the Championship.
"He's a running 10, but he's also got a 90 per cent kicking rate, and he missed one which cost us the game in the end.
"He didn't lose us the game, but that kick cost us the game. But today it was five from five, and his distribution was good."
Kingston, meanwhile, was left to rue Harlequins' shocking second-half discipline. Props Kyle Sinckler and Owen Evans were both sin-binned before Luamanu was sent packing on 71 minutes.
Quins had battled back from 14-3 down against Bristol at Twickenham last weekend and though they stuck in at 9-7 after Robshaw's score, there was no comeback this time round, leaving Kingston a frustrated man - especially after his side flouted his half-time message.
"We managed, in a 10 or 15-minute period, to lose all the momentum we had built at the end of the first half by allowing them three successive penalties which led to them scoring from a maul and getting 16-7 ahead," Kingston explained.
"That becomes very problematic, and what made it worse was we had a player in the bin as well. From that moment on, we barely had a period of time with 15 players on the park. We effectively played the last 32 minutes with a man down, and that's pretty difficult.
"The main thing we spoke about at half-time was ensuring our discipline was good, and not giving Sale too many lineouts.
"We felt the only two areas we were concerned about were their maul and giving away penalties to give them a chance to kick at goal."