Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann paid tribute to his players after they opened their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a dramatic 18-16 win at Sale. Ackermann’s team finished third last season and signalled their potential for further progress with a spirited display which saw them fight back from 13-0 down to claim victory.
Sale led 10-0 at the interval with Byron McGuigan’s try and Rob du Preez’s penalty nine minutes after the restart put them 13-0 up. Yet Gloucester came back strongly and two tries in seven minutes from centre Mark Atkinson and winger Tom Marshall sent them on the road to a victory which saw Billy Twelvetrees claim eight points with the boot.
Sale could have snatched victory at the death but du Preez’s last-minute penalty rebounded off a post as Gloucester held on in tense fashion. Ackermann said: “All I can ask of the players is for them to show a lot of fight and that’s what I saw.
“Even at half-time, I said ‘boys, I love the fight’ and we showed a lot of character out there. The whole atmosphere and talk at half-time was positive because the players felt we had opportunities but a lack of execution meant we couldn’t finish them.
“The message was clear and simple – to keep playing the way we wanted to play and the opportunities would present themselves. Sale played really well in the first half and had we conceded more points then it would have been difficult to come back.
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“We didn’t start well in the second half and conceded three or four penalties, but once we sorted our discipline out I felt it was much better.”
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was left frustrated by his side’s failure to see out the game after building a 13-0 lead. But he also admitted that Gloucester were ultimately worthy victors, saying: “I thought in the first half we had control and probably should have gone in a little further in front.
Fascinating insight on how Steve Diamond approaches Premiership Rugby life in Manchester with Sale https://t.co/ILp1nctTKh
— liam heagney (@heagneyl) September 14, 2019
“We knocked the ball on twice over the line and I don’t think we got the decisions at the scrum – three penalties against us on our own put-in, but fair play to Gloucester. They came to do a job and they did it. They got their noses in front and we couldn’t get it back.
“I don’t think our bench offered us as much as the lads who started. But it’s a bit of a reality check about how difficult the Premiership is. If you’re not on it for eighty or ninety per cent of the game then sides will beat you, home or away. I’m disappointed, but I’m not going back to the drawing board just yet.”
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