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'A lot of anger' - Alex Sanderson frustrated in France

By PA
(Photo by Ashley Western/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson had mixed emotions after his side kept their Heineken Champions Cup destiny in their own hands going into the final round of pool matches.

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A losing bonus point in their 25-19 defeat to Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel Michelin means they can guarantee safe passage into the last 16 by completing a double over Ospreys at the AJ Bell Stadium next Sunday. They beat the Ospreys 21-13 in Swansea in the opening round and the Welsh region cannot now qualify after losing to Racing 92 at the weekend.

“I can’t fault the effort and application of my players and we came away with a lot of pride and a lot of anger,” said Sanderson, whose side scored tries through Jean-Luc du Preez, Tom Roebuck and Bevan Rodd and had another from Will Cliff disallowed by the TMO.

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“I feel like we nearly won it. Anyone coming here and taking a losing bonus point would normally be happy, but every point matters in this tournament and we were better than what we came away with.

“I feel frustrated allied with a sense of pride because we didn’t give an inch physically. We stuck to the game plan in the first half and looked dangerous.

“Now we know what we’ve got to do to go through and that’s beat Ospreys at home. We are getting there and we are starting to gel.

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“We’ll go home, lick our wounds and start building for next weekend. We are better than the scoreline indicated in Clermont and if we keep applying ourselves, and keep building, the results will start to turn our way.”

Two late penalties from former France scrum-half Morgan Parra clinched the four points for Clermont and enabled them to end a run of four successive home defeats in the Champions Cup. They now have to go to Ulster in the last round to try to clinch their place in the knock-out stages.

“I know Toulouse won in Belfast last season, but Ulster have a great record at Ravenhill against French sides over the last 10 years. It is going to be a really difficult challenge,” said head coach Jono Gibbes, who used to coach Ulster.

“It was a mixed bag against Sale. Things went against us at times and the players showed a lot of character, but we complicated things for ourselves.

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“It was a good test for us and Morgan Parra coming on and kicking those two penalties ensured there was some reward for our effort.”

France international Damien Penaud made one try and scored another to pick up the Heineken Star of the Match award. Gibbes moved him off the wing into the centre and he was the stand-out performer just ahead of the Six Nations.

“We just wanted to get the ball into Damien’s hands as often as possible because so many things happen around him,” said Gibbes.

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