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“Victims of our own demise”-Alex Sanderson on defeat to Bath Rugby

Sale Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson has said his team were their own worst enemy as they fell agonisingly short of a second Premiership Final in a row. 

Sanderson’s Sharks had rallied from 18-3 down to lead with 15 minutes left in their semi-final, however a run of 10 unanswered points in the closing quarter secured the victory for the West Country outfit.

Speaking to the media after the game, Sanderson said: “We just allowed them back into our 22 repeatedly, and you can only soak up that pressure for so long until you concede points; which we did both by way of penalties and in the end with that maul try. We were victims of our own demise, but all credit to Bath. They were consistent throughout the game.”

He added: “We had the winning of the game. In these big games, it can turn on very small hinges, like a couple of kicks or a couple of penalties. That was it today.”

“I always have to watch it back, but we lost the ability to control and dominate the middle third of the pitch in that second half, through discipline around the ruck and losing aerial contests in our 22.”

Whilst he feels his side were victims of their own demise, he was quick to detail the pride he had in his team for reaching the play-offs.

“No, that just fills me with pride, really. That’s the group that I know we had. We put some of our best stuff out there in the last five games.”

The Sharks pieced together a run of five-straight wins to reach the play-offs, including a comfortable 20-10 win over Saracens on the final day, however today proved one step too far for Sanderson’s men.

Alex Sanderson on “exceptional” Finn Russell

16 of Bath’s 31 points came through the boot of fly-half Finn Russell, and he easily could have had more if his audacious drop-goal attempt had gone through the uprights.

Russell was also at the heart of most good things for Bath, and Sanderson was full of praise for the star number 10.

“Finn’s exceptional, isn’t he? He’s an exceptional player, and he was at Racing. I remember bowing out in the semi-finals to a chip kick to (Virimi) Vakatawa. He’s got that in the back pocket, hasn’t he? He’s got that magic sauce.”

“I think we closed him down for the most part quite well today,” Sanderson continued. “But he still managed to get a couple of inspired kicks in there to put the pressure back on us.”

Russell has been arguably the signing of the season for Bath. His form has helped guide them to a first final since 2015, and was also nominated for Premiership Player of the Season