Bristol substitute Ian Madigan and Sale scrum-half Faf De Klerk both missed penalties in the dying minutes. Madigan failed to find the target with two long-range efforts, while De Klerk hit a post with just seconds remaining.
“We had a couple of chances to win it – as did they – but overall it was probably a fair result,” Sale rugby director Diamond said.
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“We didn’t get the decisions we deserved at the breakdown and I thought our defence was excellent.
“We didn’t get our just deserves, but apart from that it was an entertaining game.
“In the lift coming down (from the coach’s viewing area) I thought we were going three points behind, but by the time I got out of it we were kicking for goal, so it was quite a weird experience.
“Our effort was fantastic, but our game-management was poor. There were two times where there was no Bristol player in the 22 and we gave two easy penalties away and it took the pressure off them.
“That’s what we’ve got to learn. The players we’ve recruited for next season will hopefully bring a bit more understanding of that, but in terms of effort, we’ve got that in bucket-loads.”
Tries by wing Denny Solomona and De Klerk edged Sale ahead in front of a 20,000 crowd, while De Klerk added a penalty and his half-back partner AJ MacGinty kicked two conversions and a penalty.
The result effectively ended Bristol’s hopes of a top-six finish, even though they went close, matching Sale on tries through touchdowns by full-back Charles Piutau and Alapati Leiua, while fly-half Callum Sheedy kicked seven points.
Bristol head coach Pat Lam added: “I can’t fault the effort of the guys, but it was frustrating. We wanted to start well.
“We had to play a certain way against them because we got done up north against them earlier in the season. We had to turn it around.
“The plan was not to give away an intercept and all of a sudden we were 10-0 behind. It was a huge effort to climb our way back into the game.
“The feeling is flat. Two points is better than no points, but we desperately wanted the four.
“It (possible top-six finish) was always going to come down to one or two points, but we just have to take it. We have a couple of weeks now before we play Newcastle.”
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