Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond hailed his side’s performance after they defeated Northampton 22-10 to move up to fourth in the Gallagher Premiership standings.

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Chris Ashton, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Akker van der Merwe all touched down, while Rob du Preez added seven points from the tee.

The result took Sale into the play-off positions and left them just four points behind Exeter, who went ahead of the Saints to the top of the table.

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“Against a side that have been playing well all season and have scored more tries than anybody, I think we managed to look after them in defence quite well,” Diamond said.

“We know they’re good in the first two or three phases, they scored that try where we missed a one-on-one tackle but, apart from that, I thought we handled them quite well.”

Despite a frustrating start to the campaign, which saw Sale struggle to find their rhythm, this was a much-improved effort and Diamond believes that they have the quality to compete at the right end of the Premiership.

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“I think we’ve got a squad to operate at the top end of the division,” he said. “We’re missing our locks with Lood (de Jager) and (Josh) Beaumont injured but we seem to have weathered that storm.

“We’re touching the top-four today and top-four at Christmas was always a little bit of a target. We go to Bath next week and who knows where we can be in the next fortnight.”

The only disappointment for the Sharks came in their inability to claim the try bonus-point, which left Diamond frustrated, but the director of rugby hopes that this victory can kick-start a good run of form.

He added: “We had a similar position last year where we beat Bristol here, beat Gloucester away and Saracens at home. We’ve got two home games and an away game again.

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“We’ll put all our endeavours into our night out tonight, have a good time and watch Bath tomorrow, before we go down there.”

Sale are now just three points behind Northampton, who lost top spot to the Chiefs, and the Saints’ boss Chris Boyd bemoaned his team’s inaccuracy.

“We got out-scrapped really,” Boyd said. “We were trying to box our way out of trouble and they were fighting their way out of trouble.

“We started poorly, got back to 10-all and then probably dropped two, three or four chances before half-time which could have made the half-time score a little bit different.

“Credit to them, they were allowed to slow our ball down, which had an impact on their line speed, which had an impact on our skills, which had an impact on our decision-making.

“There are not a lot of big fixes, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, we just have to be significantly more accurate at what we do.”

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