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'Tactically, maybe we should have got the ball into his hands a bit more'

Manu Tuilagi /PA

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Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson was frustrated at the Sharks’ failure to capitalise on a vintage performance by Manu Tuilagi in a 31-31 Gallagher Premiership draw with London Irish.


Sanderson felt Tuilagi’s influential carrying at Brentford Community Stadium was reminiscent of the England centre’s “glory days” and he was at the heart of a dominant first half that secured the bonus point three minutes before the break.

But Irish reeled in the Premiership title contenders and Sanderson accepted some of the blame after limiting a slimmed down Tuilagi’s role just days after he was included in Eddie Jones’ training squad for the autumn.

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Sanderson said: “Tactically, maybe we should have got the ball into his hands a bit more in the second half. We used the driving maul in the second half and as a tactic that didn’t work.

“If I had my time again – and everyone’s a genius with hindsight – I’d probably try to get something into his hands because he was setting us up really well.

“His timing was back to the glory days, he looked really good. It was good to see, especially with him back in the England squad.”

Sale led 31-14 at half-time but the day after Brentford fought back against Liverpool to clinch a 3-3 draw at the same venue, the Sharks shared the fate of Jurgen Klopp’s men.


Full-back Tom Parton ran in two tries to propel the Exiles into contention with a converted Curtis Rona try then levelling the score before a last-gasp penalty by Paddy Jackson that would have snatched victory struck the left post.

Press Association

“We didn’t get set-piece dominance and lost too much ball at the breakdown,” said Sanderson, whose side left London with a three-point haul.

“We’ve got to be smarter when things aren’t going our way and we were struggling to get the gainline advantage we had in the first half.


“You’ve got to find a way to grab the game and we didn’t change tactics. We weren’t smart in what we did. We were banging our heads against a brick wall.

“We started the second half strongly but it was all Irish for the last 30 minutes. I asked the players afterwards and they said they felt like they’d lost.”

Irish boss Les Kiss praised Parton’s contribution and felt his team displayed the same battling qualities seen from Premier League newcomers Brentford on Saturday night.

“Tom has to be getting closer and closer to England for sure. He is a real mature player and we can build a counter-plan around him,” Kiss said.

“What he did from the backfield was pretty special and our game grew off some of those moments. We were disappointed in that first half but Sale put us under the pump.

“We just couldn’t get our teeth into how we wanted to play and we were the masters of our own grief at times.

“The second-half defence was superb for us, we just knew we left a bit out there. There is a sense of frustration.

“What you saw from Brentford last night is a team that fights for everything and we fought for everything today.”


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