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'My heart rate was horrendous... I was thinking 'How has it come to this?!'

By PA

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Alex Sanderson admitted his team had put him through the wringer after Sale rode their luck late on in a 20-19 victory over Bath in their Premiership Rugby opener at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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With young scrum-half Raffi Quirke in sensational form, Sale led 17-0 at one point only for Bath to come back and take the lead in the last 10 minutes.

A Kieran Wilkinson penalty put the Sharks back in front and Orlando Bailey then did not have the distance with a long-range shot to win it in the final minute, much to Sanderson’s relief.

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Mike Brown’s Gallagher Premiership young player of the season
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Mike Brown’s Gallagher Premiership young player of the season

He said: “My heart rate was horrendous after that, I’m sure they do it on purpose.

“I’ve got this thing on my arm ‘Don’t let the pressure negate pleasure’ and today the pressure negated the pleasure. I was thinking ‘How has it come to this?!’

“It should have been a 30-point game, we knocked on two over the line. The pressure in the first half we didn’t convert into points. But it meant with five minutes to go we were a point down.

“But we found a way to win. That’s also their superpower. They’re special quality these lot, I’m dead proud of them.

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“Raffi Quirke should be fine for next week. He’s only young, he is going to be fast-tracked (for England) – I think he’s ready. He sees the gap and can go through it, which is a proper threat.

“A Faf de Klerk in the making, a mini unicorn.”

Akker van der Merwe and Byron McGuigan both crossed before half-time for Sale, although a yellow card for Simon Hammersley allowed Danny Cipriani to knock over a penalty on his Bath debut.

Trailing 17-3, Bath bounced back in the second half, with Juan Schoeman’s try and Cipriani’s replacement Bailey taking them into the lead, only for the late miss to end their hopes of victory, leaving director of rugby Stuart Hooper with mixed emotions.

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He said: “You know what Premiership Rugby is like, sometimes those kicks go over and sometimes they don’t. The effort the boys put in, the way they stuck at it – I’m really proud and there’s plenty to take away.

“We gave away too many penalties in the first half – I think it was 11. We asked the lads if Sale were stressing us when they had the ball, they weren’t so if we sorted out the penalties we’d get back in the game and we did.

“We were definitely better in the second half but you’ve got to remember that there are two teams out there. Sale came out hard in the first half, they’re a big physical team. As the game went on they were tiring and we started to find space.

“We could have won it at the end but that’s the way it is. We got a point though and that’s important in this league.”

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'My heart rate was horrendous... I was thinking 'How has it come to this?!'

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