'He'd be the first to admit he hasn't been firing on all cylinders'
Bristol boss Pat Lam hailed a morale-booster of a performance after a late Semi Radradra try earned them a narrow 10-9 comeback victory over Sale in their Heineken Champions Cup last-16 first-leg tie. It was Sale who took the early lead through the boot of Rob du Preez before Callum Sheedy replied from the tee to reduce the deficit to 6-3 at half-time.
An error-strewn encounter saw both sides struggle before replacement Radradra burst through midfield and stepped his way past the last defender to put his side ahead late on. Du Preez brought the Sharks back to within a point with another penalty three minutes from time, but the visitors held on for the narrowest of wins.
Lam said: “It’s a morale-booster in the sense that we have been up here five times during my time here and haven’t won. It’s a tough place to come. You know you’re in for a physical battle and you have to meet that head-on. That’s what I’m most pleased about for the boys. We were gutted after that Northampton game. The boys felt ‘that’s not us’, worked hard on it this week and it was a big effort to keep Sale out all game.”
Lam was particularly happy with the Bristol move that set up the winning score for Radradra. He added: “We changed that move on Thursday. We thought ‘let’s just adjust this and it’ll be a perfect line for Semi to run onto’, and they ran it perfectly. He would be the first to admit he hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, but some of the stuff he does in games creates so many opportunities. It was good to see him open up and remind people what he does have.”
Meanwhile, Sale coach Alex Sanderson was frustrated with his side as they fell to a home defeat. He said: “There is a great deal of frustration.
“Bristol were brilliant tactically, they bored us off, but it wasn’t a brilliant spectacle of free-flowing championship rugby. It was a tactic that worked and we have got to be better. The teams that do really well in this competition do the simple things really well, we need to do more of the simple things better.”
But Sanderson was quick to look forward to the return leg as his team hope to overturn the single-point deficit. He added: “That is the beauty of a double-header, we get to exorcise any frustration next week so roll on Friday. I wish we could play it again tomorrow. It wasn’t a fair representation of how we train, how we play or what we want to showcase in terms of the talent we have. We have got six days to put it right.”
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