Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Diamond sets sights on Euro return

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond has targeted another European Champions Cup campaign after his side slipped to their fifth straight loss, going down 22-13 to Pool One leaders Clermont.

The match was a dead rubber for Sale and, despite a spirited display, the French visitors showed their class in the final quarter to emerge victorious.

Diamond is now looking to finish in the top six of the Aviva Premiership to ensure the Sharks are back in Europe's premier competition again next season.

The Sale boss said: "We have lost at home to three sides - Saracens in the last minute, Munster in the last minute and we were beaten in the last 10 minutes today.

"We've come a long way as a side in this competition but we've got a lot to do and a lot to work on.

"It's good that we are playing against these kind of sides who are, week in and week out, probably better than us and we will learn from it.

"We are obviously in the top six of the Premiership and the goal for us is to qualify for this top European competition again.

"If you qualify, you want a group which has sides like Clermont, Munster and Saracens.

"Unlike today, the last two home games have had big crowds and it's a joy to play in it.

"We could have won this game and we just need to believe in ourselves a bit more.

"I'm not disappointed because we will beat the mid-table sides in the Premiership if we perform like that week in and week out."

Five penalties from fly-half Camille Lopez and a late try from number eight Fritz Lee, which Lopez converted, capped an impressive display from Clermont in the final quarter.

It has set up a winner-takes-all home clash with Saracens in France next Saturday for the right to finish top of Pool One.

Diamond, who lost Mark Cueto and Will Addison to groin and hamstring strains respectively during the first half, added: "Fair play to Clermont because they stayed patient and stuck to their guns, came within a score of us and eventually overtook us.

"For Saracens to go to Clermont and win would be a huge achievement for an English team. I would say the odds are stacked against them."

Clermont's former Leicester hooker Benjamin Kayser paid tribute to Sale's fighting spirit.

He said: "It's a very English mentality to never give up, even though they didn't stand a chance of qualifying.

"That's one thing I admire about the English sides - they never give up and they have so much respect for the European Cup.

"They always give everything and the first half was very tough with the conditions - it was cold and wet, which wasn't ideal.

"But we really got stuck in, we didn't panic and leaders such as Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez really had the right words to keep our composure, play simple rugby and we did that.

"It such an important win for us."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph