Alex Sanderson: 14-man Sale showed great character in bonus-point win over Bath

Dylan Coetzee
Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson looks on before a Premiership clash.

Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson hailed his team’s character after they claimed a 37-20 bonus point win against Bath despite going a man down early on after a red card.

Prop Nick Schonert was given his marching orders in only the ninth minute after a dangerous tackle on Bath’s Dave Attwood.

Strong start

Regardless, the win means Sanderson’s men have scored maximum points in both games in what has been an impressive start to the season from Sale.

The coach attributed the performance to hard work during pre-season, which he is delighted to have seen translated into the Premiership.

“The togetherness and grit, they responded and they didn’t kick stones, which you can do after an event (red card) like that,” Sale rugby director Sanderson said.

“They managed it very well physically, played in the right areas and came alive in attack and showed the endeavour they have shown in the last couple of weeks.

“It is another performance worthy of all the work they have done in pre-season. That is what I am most happy about, that is what I am chuffed about.”

Sanderson agreed with the red card and believes it is essential that laws protect players’ heads and the responsibility rests on the tackler.

“We are in the business of looking after people’s heads at the moment,” Sanderson added.

“I sat in a coaches’ conference three weeks ago talking about mitigating factors. I will look, and if there are mitigating factors, maybe we will get him off a ban.

“But as a tackler, you have got to adjust your body-height.

“It is any part of the body that makes contact with the person’s head. They are the laws, and we have got to apply ourselves to them.

“Sometimes when you have to shift your strategy so early on (because of a red card) it can be as detrimental to the side with the one-man advantage.

“You know you have to work harder when you are a man down, there is nowhere else to go. I’ve been on both sides of the coin.”

Sale scored their four tries through Tom O’Flaherty, Akker van der Merwe, Tom Curry and Jono Ross as Robert du Preez notched up 17 points with the boot.

Uphill battle ahead

Bath coach Johann van Graan was upset with the result and insisted it was a “good lesson” for his team.

“I am very disappointed. It was not the performance I was looking for,” he said.

“We lost the physical battle hands-down, and our accuracy was not good enough, but that happens when you are beaten in the collisions.

“They were incredibly powerful in the maul, and we got dominated in contact. It was a good lesson for us.

“We’ve got to be better. There is absolutely no excuse from my side. We had moments, but (it was) not good enough.”

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