Sale head coach Paul Deacon said his team had done former director of rugby Steve Diamond proud after they ended a tumultuous week with a 26-14 defeat at the hands of Toulon.
Diamond left the club he has been at for the last 10 years on Tuesday and it gave Deacon – the new man in charge – just a handful of days to prepare for Heineken Champions Cup action.
The Sharks were blown away for the first 60 minutes and fell 26-0 down, but they rallied to score consolation tries from Marland Yarde and Sam Phillips.
Toulon wings Gabin Villiere and Ramiro Moyano scored a try apiece, while their outstanding France fly-half Louis Carbonel was man of the match as he kicked 16 points.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t get the result,” said Deacon. “I think the lads did Steve proud. He put this squad together. Hopefully he was watching and enjoyed it.
“I’m proud of their effort. We coughed up a bit of ball and there were a few unforced errors which cost us, but I can’t knock their effort. It was what I was after this week – the togetherness was fantastic with the way we fought back in the last 20 minutes.
“We threw the ball around and that’s how we want to play. There were a lot of positives to take.
“The scoreboard got away from us in the first half which was unfortunate, but the lads stuck at it and that’s the pleasing thing. We’ve got our structures in place and the lads didn’t go off them.
“From that point of view it’s really pleasing, but it’s always disappointing when you don’t get the result. Next week is a new week and hopefully we can improve on that performance.”
Sale started well, but two penalties from Carbonel made it 6-0 to the hosts as AJ MacGinty missed one kick of his own.
Pure magic from Carbonel created Villiere’s effort as the fly-half collected his own kick ahead before unleashing the winger.
Another Carbonel penalty made it 16-0 at the break and three more points from the star man came at the start of the second period.
An outstanding offload from veteran Italian number eight Sergio Parisse created Toulon’s second for Moyano, but Sale hit back with Faf De Klerk and Sam James providing impetus from the bench.
James kicked ahead and Sam Dugdale’s fine hands sent wing Yarde in at the corner. Giant lock Phillips then crashed over from a De Klerk pass, but it was not enough despite MacGinty’s kicks.
Yarde said: “I think we troubled one of the best sides in Europe. In the first half we could have kept the ball a little bit better, but I like the fight we had in us in the last 20 minutes.
“I thought we dug deep and we knew if we kept going throughout the game, we’d get our time.
“We fell just short, but looking ahead to next week, if we can join up some of our errors I think we’ll get a better result.”
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